Ald. Nicole Lee (11th) at a City Council meeting on Dec. 14, 2022. Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago

CHINATOWN — Ald. Nicole Lee (11th) hung onto her City Council seat after prevailing in Tuesday’s runoff election.

With all 23 precincts reporting Tuesday night, the incumbent held 61.7 percent of the vote to Chicago Police officer Anthony Ciaravino’s 38.2 percent, sealing Lee’s first full term.

Lee will be sworn into City Council on May 15.

The 11th Ward includes parts of Chinatown, Bridgeport, Armour Square. The redistricting of the city’s wards last year means Lee will serve a majority Asian ward, the first in the city’s history.

Over 200 supporters and volunteers packed the dining room of New Furama South, 2828 S. Wentworth Ave., for Lee’s victory party, some watching election night returns from several mounted flatscreens around the room. After a brief introduction from Cook County Commissioner and 11th Ward Committeeman and Cook County Commissioner John Daley, a visibly emotional Lee invoked her ancestors as she thanked her team for their support.

“We’ve just participated in the first democratic process and the first Asian-American majority ward. Let this moment, this memory be one you keep with you,” Lee told supporters Tuesday night at New Furama South, 2828 S. Wentworth Ave.

“The work is not done. It’s just starting until the humblest voices heard the same as the loudest. We’ve not done enough. I think we all know that. It is a heavy burden. But luckily it’s not our job to finish the work. Our job is just to continue it and I’m happy to play my part in continuing that work.”

Mayor Lori Lightfoot appointed Lee in March 2022 to replace former Ald. Patrick Daley Thompson after he was forced to resign after being convicted of income tax fraud and lying to federal regulators.

Lee is just the second Asian American to serve on City Council, following former Ald. Ameya Pawar (47th), the first Asian American woman and the first Chinese American alderperson.

“For 115 years, Chinatown has existed in Chicago without Chinese representation, and that ends tonight,” Lee said in a statement. “I’d like to thank everyone that worked so hard to get this ward created in the first place—which was no easy political feat—and all those who worked to preserve and protect it in this runoff election. 

The Whitney Young alumna and mother of two is the daughter of Gene Lee, who served under Richard M. Daley as his Deputy Chief of Staff before he was convicted of embezzlement in 2014.

It was a contentious campaign, with Ciaravino accusing the former United Airlines executive of being slow to act on issues of public safety throughout the ward. He was also one of several challengers characterizing Lee’s appointment by Lightfoot in March 2022 as “politics as usual.”

The veteran cop took a commanding lead in the Feb. 28 election but failed to get the 50 percent necessary to win, forcing a runoff.

One of Lee’s priorities in her new term is the community high school proposed for the Near South Side, which would address the needs of the ever-growing neighborhood population. Lee told Block Club that the area has suffered from what she referred to as a “high school desert,” forcing families to send their children outside the neighborhood for better options. Twitter @thewayoftheid