LINCOLN PARK — Recently appointed Ald. Timmy Knudsen and challenger Brian Comer will go to a head-to-head contest after the incumbent failed to land enough votes to secure his first full term representing the 43rd Ward.
With all 23 precincts reporting Tuesday night, Knudsen held 26 percent of the vote to Comer’s 23 percent. Candidates needed at least 50 percent of the vote to avoid a runoff.
“I feel good,” Knudsen said Tuesday night at his campaign party, which was held at Blue Door Farm Stand, 2010 N. Halsted St. “So much energy goes into this day. We’ve been working like crazy for months, and then you get to a result and I’m so happy the result is number one.”
Knudsen was appointed by Mayor Lori Lightfoot to the seat in September after former Ald. Michele Smith resigned, ending her 11-year tenure representing most of Lincoln Park, Old Town and the Gold Coast. Prior to becoming alderman, Knudsen was Lightfoot’s handpicked chair of the Zoning Board of Appeals.
Knudsen also worked on Lightfoot’s 2019 campaign finance team, although the Reader reported he was not willing to endorse her reelection bid, in which she fell short to Paul Vallas and Brandon Johnson.
The alderman’s first move in office was to use the ward’s menu dollars to install more security cameras across the ward, and his office recently hosted a community meeting with commanders from the 18th and 19th police districts.
“These cameras are great deterrents and they’re great eyes on the beat when there’s not enough officers to fill our beats,” Knudsen said. “They’re also incredible for collecting data.”
Comer is a consultant who’s also in his third term as president of the Sheffield Neighborhood Association.
Comer celebrated making the runoff during his Election Night party at Homeslice Pizza, 938 W. Webster Ave. He was joined by his parents, brother, nieces and nephews. Brian O’Donnell, owner of Armitage Hardware and son of the late prominent business leader Dan O’Donnell, was also in attendance.
“I am excited,” Comer said. “As a kid who grew up here in the 43rd Ward, running up and down the streets, playing in the park and sledding down the hill at Oz Park, I never thought that 40 years later I’d get to lead the community I grew up in.”
Comer, who received the Tribune’s endorsement earlier this month, said his campaign was “peaking at the right time.”
Comer emerged from a crowded field of candidates vying to unseat Knudsen in the 43rd Ward, including Wendi Taylor Nations, who was endorsed by Smith; Steve Botsford, a real estate developer who was endorsed by the police union; Rebecca Janowitz, an attorney and alternative energy investor who put more than $750,000 of her own money into her campaign; and Steven McClellan, who founded a nonprofit after-school program.
The race has been marked with mud-slinging among candidates, including barbs traded between Knudsen’s and Taylor Nations’ campaigns and attacks against Janowitz for her campaign’s large spending.
Taylor Nations has made social media posts in which she calls Knudsen “Tax Hike Timmy” and seemingly comparing him to Jason Voorhees from “Friday the 13th.” She came up with the nickname after a December Finance Committee meeting in which Knudsen voted against an ordinance proposed by Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd) that would have repealed a city policy of tying automatic annual property tax hikes to rate of inflation.
Knudsen’s campaign denied the tax-hike accusations and clapped back by launching a website accusing Taylor Nations of being a cyberbully. It points to a 2010 lawsuit in which Taylor Nations was accused of defaming somebody and the “Friday the 13th” posts.
Taylor Nations told Block Club the “frivolous” lawsuit was filed by her goddaughter’s father. The case was dismissed, and the dismissal was upheld on appeal, Taylor Nations said.
Comer said his campaign has largely stayed out of the attacks, instead focusing on connecting with voters about his platform and experience in the 43rd Ward.
“There’s a pattern of immaturity that the appointed alderman has shown since he’s been in office and during his campaign,” Comer said ahead of the election. “And then there’s Wendi making ‘Trumpian’ nicknames for the appointed alderman. But the voters want somebody who’s going to be mature and be the adult in the room, so we’ve been talking about actual plans — not platitudes — about what I’m going to do as alderman starting day one.”
Comer, who also serves as an 18th District police beat facilitator, has said crime and public safety are “point number one, two and three” to his platform.
He plans to address these issues by reorganizing the police budget so it spends less money on paying top brass and misconduct lawsuits and more money putting officers on the street. Comer also said he’d go after more funding from the county, state and federal governments to address the city’s crime as a public health issue.
Knudsen said his campaign felt energized after making it to the runoff.
“We were prepared for it to be anybody,” Knudsen said. “We knew it was six candidates, so it would be a runoff and it wouldn’t flip our script of what we’ve been doing. I view myself as a unique candidate for the ward [who’s] different than what’s come before me in many different ways.”
Knudsen’s and Comer’s runoff election will be held April 4.
Subscribe to Block Club Chicago, an independent, 501(c)(3), journalist-run newsroom. Every dime we make funds reporting from Chicago’s neighborhoods.
Click here to support Block Club with a tax-deductible donation.
Thanks for subscribing to Block Club Chicago, an independent, 501(c)(3), journalist-run newsroom. Every dime we make funds reporting from Chicago’s neighborhoods. Click here to support Block Club with a tax-deductible donation.
Listen to “The Ballot: A Block Club Chicago Podcast”: