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Leni Manaa-Hoppenworth Declares Upset Victory In 48th Ward Race

The race to replace retiring Ald. Harry Osterman started at 10 people before coming down to business owner Manaa-Hoppenworth and developer Joe Dunne.

Leni Manaa-Hoppenworth, candidate for 48th Ward alderman, joined a coalition of LGB-identifying politicians denouncing mayoral candidate Paul Vallas on Wednesday, March 8, 2023.
Jake Wittich/Block Club Chicago
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EDGEWATER — Leni Manaa-Hoppenworth claimed victory in a hard-fought race to be the next 48th Ward alderperson.

With all 35 precincts reporting Tuesday night, Manaa-Hoppenworth held 51.89 percent of the vote to Joe Dunne’s 48.11 percent. Manaa-Hoppenworth was ahead by about 600 votes.

Dunne said Tuesday there was a “razor-thin margin” and “we’re not going to know tonight who won.” He did not concede as of Wednesday.

“We’ve got a lot of votes still standing. There’s mail-in ballots, absentee ballots, so we’re going to count those votes, we’re going to see who won,” Dunne said. “We’re gonna be there in the morning or afternoon, whenever that last vote comes across the line.”

There are 2,788 unreturned mail-in ballots in the 48th Ward, according to the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners. Not all will necessarily translate into votes, as some may not have correct postmarks, some won’t have logged a vote for alderperson and some may not be returned for processing.

But Manaa-Hoppenworth all but declared victory, saying she felt proud of her community and team.

“We knocked on thousands of doors, made thousands of phone calls, sent thousands of texts, had thousands of one-on-one conversations with people at meet-and-greets,” Manaa-Hoppenworth said. “Every one of those things helped us get another vote and got us closer to crossing the finish line.”

Manaa-Hoppenworth said she’s excited to work with a more progressive City Council and to work on providing more affordable housing and mental health support to Chicagoans.

“I couldn’t have done it without my family and whole community behind me,” Manaa-Hoppenworth said. “I’m just ready to do the work; we’ve been doing it for so long, but now we can do it in a way that can enact real structural change.

“We need that and we deserve it, not just in this neighborhood but everywhere throughout Chicago.”

The winner will replace Ald. Harry Osterman, who is leaving the post after first being elected in 2011. Manaa-Hoppenworth emerged from a 10-person race, one of the most crowded ward elections this cycle.

The field was narrowed to Dunne and Manaa-Hoppenworth after the February general election. Dunne garnered 27 percent of the February vote to Manaa-Hoppenworth’s 21 percent. In the general election, Manaa-Hoppenworth made the runoff over Nick Ward, a fellow progressive who had the backing of powerful unions and political groups.

Manaa-Hoppenworth then faced a sizeable cash disadvantage against Dunne, who had raised $195,000 since Dec. 31 to Manaa-Hoppenworth’s $72,000, according to Illinois Sunshine.

The 48th Ward also became a flashpoint in the hunt for control of City Council, with special interests and unions getting involved in the race. Dunne was the preferred candidate of establishment Democrats, while Manaa-Hoppenworth was backed by progressive public officials and organizations, including state Rep. Theresa Mah and Ald. Maria Hadden (49th).

Dunne, an affordable housing developer, was endorsed by Osterman, former Gov. Pat Quinn, former Ald. Mary Ann Smith, Sen. Heather Steans and Rep. Greg Harris. He also had the backing of powerful labor and trades groups.

Manaa-Hoppenworth, an Andersonville-based business owned and political organizer, was endorsed by mayoral candidate Brandon Johnson and a slew of progressive alderpersons and organizations.

The 48th Ward race also saw outside spending from political groups.

Get Stuff Done PAC, a group seeking to elect moderates, spent $20,000 in support of Dunne, including on mailers. The issue of redboxing, or including campaign information on a candidate’s website intended for political action groups, was also raised against Dunne’s campaign.

Get Stuff Done PAC also spent nearly $160,000 thwarting the campaign of 48th Ward hopeful Nick Ward, a Democratic-Socialist-backed candidate who missed the runoff. Ward later backed Manaa-Hoppenworth in the race.

The new City Council will be sworn in May 15.

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