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Downtown Ald. Brendan Reilly Running Unopposed For 5th Term After Sole Challenger Drops Out

Chris Cleary, a former vice president at BMO Harris, dropped out of the 42nd Ward race last week.

Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd) and Chris Cleary will be facing each other in the Feb. elections to represent the 42nd ward.
Melody Mercado/Block Club Chicago
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DOWNTOWN —  Ald. Brendan Reilly’s (42nd) only opponent has dropped out of the race, assuring the longtime alderman a fifth term in City Council this year.

Chris Cleary, a former vice president at BMO Harris and recent founder of an e-commerce company, withdrew from the 42nd Ward race late last week, according to the Chicago Board of Elections.

Thomas Enright, a 42nd Ward resident, sought to boot Cleary from the race by claiming the challenger did not have enough valid signatures to appear on the ballot. Enright dropped that objection at the same time Cleary withdrew from the race, officials said.

Cleary told Block Club his decision to drop out of the race came after a nearly “two-hour meeting” with Reilly “on how to make the 42nd Ward a better place.”

The 35-year-old also said he may launch another run in four years and called his 2023 campaign a “positive experience.”

“After now having a better understanding of the political landscape and what it takes to win, it makes more sense from the perspective of my career at this point to work with Ald. Reilly and other elected officials and to continue to build my brand and help progress the city of Chicago,” Cleary said.

Cleary was facing an uphill battle challenging Reilly, an incumbent with deep pockets who has not faced an opponent in any reelection bid since he joined City Council in 2007.

Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd) speaks at the ribbon cutting ceremony for the long-awaited completion of the Navy Pier Fly-Over path on May 10, 2021.

Reilly reported having $778,694 in the bank at the end of the third quarter, while Cleary reported loaning himself $50,000 in November. Cleary’s campaign ended up receiving four contributions totaling $16,500, finance records show.

Three of those contributions have received backlash, as they come from three companies with ties to Carmen Rossi, a notable hospitality business owner, according to Crain’s. Each of those contributions were for $5,000, totaling $15,000.

Cleary had previously denied a campaign contribution connection to Rossi.

Rossi and Reilly have been known to disagree on the alderman’s attempts to crack down on his clubs in River North.

Cleary’s top priorities included addressing violent crime, creating incentives to hire more police officers and raising private funds for increased ward services. All things he claimed Reilly could be doing, but wasn’t.

Reilly was not immediately available for comment Tuesday.

In a year of City Council turnover with multiple members stepping down or running for mayor, Reilly joins five other alderpeople who are opposed in the Feb. 28 election.

Fellow Downtown and West Loop incumbents Alds. Walter Burnett (27th) and Brian Hopkins (2nd) also have no challengers.

Alds. David Moore (17th), Scott Waguespack (32nd) and Matt Martin (47th) also are running solo in their wards and are assured another term in office.

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