UPTOWN — Community organizer and Uptown native Angela Clay will be the next 46th Ward alderperson after defeating challenger Kim Walz in the battle to replace retiring Ald. James Cappleman.
With all 23 precincts reporting Tuesday night, Clay held 56 percent of the vote to Walz’s 44 percent.
Clay will replace Cappleman, who is retiring from City Council after three terms. She emerged from a six-person race to become the ward’s next alderperson after a tough and closely watched runoff election. Clay challenged Cappleman in the 2019 race and came in fourth out of six candidates.
At her victory party Tuesday night, Clay said special interests spent $250,000 opposing her candidacy — but voters saw through the outside noise.
“The voters rejected the misinformation,” Clay said. “You really put the community first. … I’m gonna work every single day to make sure your voices are heard.”
Walz congratulated Clay on her victory and said she will work with the alderperson-elect to help move the community forward. She said she looks forward to “identifying additional opportunities to improve the community I call home.”
“While this isn’t the result we hoped for, I am so proud of the campaign we ran,” Walz said in a statement. “It has been an honor to meet with residents throughout this campaign to share my vision for moving the ward forward without leaving anyone behind.”
The field was narrowed to Walz and Clay after the February general election. Clay, a community activist, garnered 36 percent of the February vote to former Congressional aide Walz’s 26 percent.
The 46th Ward race factors heavily into the control and political makeup of City Council, with many prominent politicians, unions and special interest groups getting involved in the election.
The runoff race in the 46th Ward was the only ward-level election to see its campaign contribution limits lifted by the state after outside groups spent more than $100,000 on the race — the threshold by which donation caps are removed.
Much of that money went to support Walz or oppose Clay. The Illinois Realtors Fund spent over $128,000 in support of Walz, with the Get Stuff Done political action committee spent over $37,000 opposing Clay, state election records show.
On top of favorable outside spending, Walz’s campaign also had a fundraising advantage of Clay’s. Walz raised over $270,000 since Dec. 31, according to Illinois Sunshine, which tallies political donations.
The biggest donors to Walz’s campaign were establishment Democrats including Rep. Mike Quigley’s campaign fund ($28,000 given to Walz) and state Sen. Sara Feigenholtz’s fund ($25,000). The Realtor political action committee, on top of being one of the big outside spenders in the race, also donated $15,000 to Walz’s campaign coiffers.
Clay raised just over $200,000 since Dec. 31, according to Illinois Sunshine. Her biggest boosters were the Chicago Teachers Union, which gave $60,000, and two Service Employees International Union funds, which gave a combined $60,000, records show.
The Chicago Democratic Socialists of America also chipped in over $17,000 to Clay’s campaign.
The election also pitted Chicago’s centrist Democrats from its more progressive wing.
Clay was the lone non-incumbent Chicago Democratic Socialists candidate to make a runoff race. She will be the sixth Democractic Socialist member of the City Council, a group that has made inroads in recent elections. Many progressive candidates and political groups have rallied around Clay’s campaign.
One People’s Campaign, a progressive political group, said it its volunteers logged 400 hours of election efforts for Clay. One People’s Campaign joined with other progressive political groups like Asian American Midwest Progressives and the Jewish Council on Urban Affairs to make 4,000 calls to voters on the night before the election, it said.
Clay thanked the groups on election night. In a statement, Clay said One People’s campaign “assembled a real grassroots base of neighbors that really carried us all the way to the finish line.”
Ald. Matt Martin (47th), a North Side progressive whose ward shared boundaries with the 46th Ward, said he is “really looking forward to” working with Clay.
“She’s an exceptional candidate and I think if she wins, we’ll do a tremendous job representing that dynamic board,” Martin said before Clay’s race was called.
Walz was backed by some of the city and state’s major political players, including Gov. JB Pritzker, Sen. Dick Durbin, state Sen. Sara Feigenholtz, Rep. Mike Quigley and Rep. Jan Schakowsky.
The election turned heated during the runoff.
Walz slammed Clay over support of “defund the police” initiatives and criticized Clay’s acceptance of federal Paycheck Protection Program loans and her need to correct statement of economic interest forms to reflect the loans.
Clay in turn painted Walz as being the preferred candidate of corporate or special interests and highlighting the Walz’s campaign use of “redboxing,” or including on her website political messaging meant for political action groups that can’t explicitly coordinate with candidates.
After securing her victory, Clay said she will look to bring together the community after a fraught election and work toward ensuring “Chicago remains the dopest city on the planet.”
Clay will be sworn in at City Council on May 15.
Subscribe to Block Club Chicago, an independent, 501(c)(3), journalist-run newsroom. Every dime we make funds reporting from Chicago’s neighborhoods.
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”: