Ald. Thomas M. Tunney (44th) speaks at a City Council meeting on Sept. 21, 2022. Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago

LAKEVIEW — Ald. Tom Tunney (44th) has petitions on the street to run for mayor as he ponders challenging former ally Lori Lightfoot.

The petitions to get Tunney on the ballot for the 2023 mayoral election are being circulated on Tunney’s behalf while he continues to assess his options, a spokesperson said. He isn’t running for reelection for his job representing Lakeview.

“During the last few months, Ald. Tom Tunney has heard from Chicagoans across the city who are encouraging him to run for mayor,” the spokesperson said. “They want him to run because they know that he shares their concerns about the issues most important to them — crime, education and taxes — and have confidence in his ability to work collaboratively with community members and elected officials to ensure that these issues are properly addressed.”

The North Side alderman announced in late August he will not seek reelection for alderman of the 44th Ward, which includes the bustling Northalsted and Wrigleyville areas. He endorsed his chief of staff, Bennett Lawson, in his campaign.

Tunney told the Sun-Times earlier in August he hasn’t ruled out a run for mayor.

“People want a unifier. People want somebody [who] can bring people together. [Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s] personality is strong and can be somewhat divisive. She’s vulnerable. She knows that. A lot of people are looking for an alternative,” he told the paper.

Tunney has been a prominent advocate for Chicago’s LGBTQ+ community, serving as chair of the LGBTQ+ Caucus for City Council and pushing through related initiatives, including the development of the Center on Halsted and the Town Hall LGBTQ senior housing projects and funding for AIDS and LGBTQ support services. He’s helped build up the Boystown area, supporting the city’s massive Pride Parade and related events and pushing for the creation of the AIDS Garden, which opened in June.

The alderman clashed at times with the wealthy Ricketts family, which owns the Cubs and Wrigley Field. The Ricketts have criticized Tunney as they debated how to best develop Wrigleyville while preserving history at the ballpark and in the neighborhood. But Tunney turned away challenges to his seat in 2019 to win another term.

Tunney, a Chicago native and Brother Rice alumnus, is also known for his entrepreneurial work: He took over the popular Ann Sather restaurant in the ’80s and has expanded it into a popular chain — though he did face criticism and was fined by the city when he served diners indoors during the pandemic.

It was through Ann Sather that Tunney rose to prominence: He became a leader of the Illinois Restaurant Association, founded the Lakeview Center Business Association and allowed local groups to use Ann Sather for meetings and forums.

Tunney was nominated by former Mayor Richard M. Daley to succeed former Ald. Bernie Hansen in the 44th Ward. He was unanimously confirmed, becoming the city’s first openly gay alderman, and won an election bid to keep his seat in 2003.

If Tunney does run for mayor, he’ll be joined by fellow Alds. Ray Lopez (15th), Roderick Sawyer (6th) and Sophia King (4th) in the race.

Under Daley and former Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Tunney chaired the Committee on Special Events, Cultural Affairs and Recreation, as well as the Committee on Economic Development, Capital and Technology.

Since Lightfoot’s election, Tunney has served as chair of the Committee on Zoning, Landmarks and Building Standards, as well as chair of the Special Committee on the Chicago Casino.

Help Block Club Get
500 More Subscribers!

Subscribe to Block Club now and you’ll get a free 16-by-20-inch Chicago neighborhood print of your choice, helping us reach our goal of getting 500 more subscribers before 2024. Click here to subscribe or click here to gift a subscription.

Listen to the Block Club Chicago podcast: