Spotlight Politics: More Changes Coming to City Hall

Our politics team of Carol Marin, Paris Schutz and Amanda Vinicky digests the top political stories of the week in this edition of Spotlight Politics.

Runoff results

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Local election officials are due to certify Thursday the results of the April 2 races, some of which had until this week been too close to call.

The latest, final totals (though still unofficial, and barring a recount) mean a longtime political dynasty has lost its council clout.

Ald. Deb Mell, sister-in-law of former Gov. Rod Blagojevich and daughter of former longtime Ald. Dick Mell, appears to have lost her 33rd Ward seat to Rossana Rodriguez Sanchez, a democratic socialist.

Retaining his seat is Ald. James Cappleman, chairman of the Zoning Committee who has been in the spotlight as the council has fought over the controversial Lincoln Yards development. Opponent Marianne Lalone trails him by 25 votes in the 46th Ward, with all ballots counted.

And in the 5th Ward, Ald. Leslie Hairston held off William Calloway, an activist who became well-known in his call for justice and transparency following the Laquan McDonald shooting.

They’re set to return to council chambers with the longest-serving alderman, Ed Burke, who bested two challengers and avoided a runoff, despite a charge of alleged extortion.

Burke is linked to charges made public Friday; prosecutors allege real estate developer Charles Cui bribed Burke by hiring his law firm in return for help getting a city sign permit and a tax subsidy for a Portage Park real estate project. 

While Burke, Cappleman and Hairston held on, heavy turnover in aldermanic seats portends plenty of change in City Hall as newcomer and promised change agent Lori Lightfoot is slated to take over the mayor’s office in about a month.

General Assembly

Meanwhile, state legislators are on an unofficial spring break (or, as one senator termed it, an “in-district work period”) from Springfield.

But when they return later this month, it’ll be for the long haul. Session is set to adjourn May 31, and lawmakers need to pass a budget.

While Democrats, who hold supermajorities, have thus far cooperated with Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s agenda, some have signaled reticence to go along with his plan to restructure pension payments – he calls it sensible, but even members of his own party see it as shorting the beleaguered funds and repeating the very mistakes that got Illinois into a confounding pension mess.

Kim Foxx’s texts

“Sooo …...I’m recused, but …”

So begins a text message sent by Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx to her chief deputy regarding more than a dozen felony counts against “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett, who was charged with lying to police about a hate crime he’d allegedly arranged.

Foxx has been under fire since her office abruptly dropped those charges in March, but thousands of internal emails, texts and other communications give a window – if not into why the charges were dropped – how her office dealt with the media frenzy surrounding it.

While allies – particularly those who say that Foxx is being racially persecuted – have stuck by her, the just-released documents provide more kindling for her critics.

Foxx, midway through her first term, is up for re-election next year.

Follow us on Twitter: @wttw @paschutz @CarolMarin | @AmandaVinicky

Related stories:

Meet the Runoff Winners of 4 Open City Council Seats

Spotlight Politics: Deciphering Lori Lightfoot’s Historic Win

Vasquez Vanquishes O’Connor in 40th Ward

Incumbent Aldermen Fight for Their Political Lives in Runoff Election

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