UPTOWN — Special interest groups are spending big in the 46th Ward race — so much so that the candidates can now raise unlimited funds to counteract the outside spending.
The Illinois State Board of Elections lifted the campaign contribution limits for the 46th Ward race, which is seeing Angela Clay and Kim Walz facing off for the Uptown alderperson seat.
The limit on contributions to the campaigns — by individuals and organizations — were lifted after outside groups spent more than $100,000 on the 46th Ward runoff race, the threshold by which contribution limits are removed. By March 21, outside groups had spent at least $102,000 in the runoff that started after the Feb. 28 election — with all of it either in support of Walz or opposing Clay.
Outside the race for mayor, the 46th Ward is the only one in the city that has seen enough outside spending to lift the individual contribution limit.
The biggest special interest expenditures in the 46th Ward runoff race come from the Illinois Realtors Fund, which has poured in more than $43,500 in support of Walz’s campaign, according to the state elections board. Between the Feb. 28 election and the runoff race, the Realtors fund has spent over $128,000 in support of Walz, records show.
The Get Stuff Done political action committee has spent $37,775 opposing Clay’s campaign, election board records show. Get Stuff Done is a political group founded by allies of former Mayor Rahm Emanuel and funded by local business leaders, according to the Chicago Tribune.
Illinois Network of Charter School’s PAC has spent $21,000 in the race in support of Walz, records show.
The outside spending comes as control over City Council will be determined by the runoff races. So, too, will be the direction of the 46th Ward, which includes much of Uptown and a portion of Lakeview East.
RELATED: 46th Ward Runoff Comes Down To Community Organizer Angela Clay, Former Congressional Aide Kim Walz
The outside spending amounts to business and political interests trying to “profit off the community at the people’s expense,” Emily Isaacson, campaign manager for Clay, said in a statement.
“They’re spreading misinformation in a desperate attempt to buy the election, but we hear every day that the people of the ward are rejecting them,” Isaacson said.
Walz’s campaign said the expenditures highlight the stakes in the race and the issues impacting the campaign.
“Kim Walz has the experience necessary to be ready on day one to make our communities safer and strengthen our social safety net, and it’s evident how high the stakes are in this race,” a campaign spokesperson said.
The Realtors group funding comes as Uptown has experienced a major development boom in recent years. Development and housing have been a major topic in the 46th Ward race.
Clay, a community organizer, has been critical of past development and participated in efforts to thwart turning a parking lot at Weiss Hospital into 314 apartments. Her policy platform includes an emphasis on building affordable housing, lifting the ban on rent control and increasing funding for homelessness initiatives.
Walz, a former congressional aide and current Walgreens executive, has said she is in favor of building more affordable housing and expanding housing efforts for the homeless. She supports reducing the city’s reliance on property taxes and has pledged to use a community zoning committee that is diverse and “truly reflective of our community” when considering developments, according to her campaign website.
Another issue at stake is the political makeup of the City Council.
If Clay were to win the 46th Ward seat, she would become the sixth member of the Democratic Socialist caucus in the City Council. All five incumbent Democratic Socialists either won their elections in February or avoided a challenger.
Get Stuff Done PAC has spent big in opposition of the Democratic Socialist candidates. That includes spending more than $158,000 in opposition of Nick Ward’s campaign in the 48th Ward and spending $105,000 against Ald. Byron Sigcho Lopez’s (25th) reelection effort.
Get Stuff Done spent more than $37,000 with a political media company in the 46th Ward race, records show. The Chicago Democratic Socialists of America recently donated $9,500 to Clay’s campaign.
Under state law, limits on personal contributions to campaigns for local offices are waived once special interest groups spend at least $100,000 or if a candidate self funds to the tune of at least $100,000. Statewide races see contribution limits lifted at a $250,000 outside expenditure or self-funding threshold.
With the contribution cap lifted, individuals can give more than $6,000 and businesses more than $12,000 to Walz or Clay.
Three races during the city’s Feb. 28 election saw contribution limits lifted. That includes the mayoral race, the 25th Ward race and the 43rd Ward race — where candidate Rebecca Janowitz self-funded to the tune of at least $750,000. She came in third and missed the runoff.
The runoff election is April 4.
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