Ald. Tom Tunney Announces He Won’t Seek 6th Term Representing Lakeview on Chicago City Council

Ald. Tom Tunney, 44th Ward, speaks with “Chicago Tonight” on April 9, 2020. (WTTW News)Ald. Tom Tunney, 44th Ward, speaks with “Chicago Tonight” on April 9, 2020. (WTTW News)

Ald. Tom Tunney (44th Ward) announced Monday that he will not run for re-election to represent Lakeview on the Chicago City Council in 2023, ending his career as an elected official after 20 years.

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Elected in 2003 to represent Lakeview and Wrigleyville, Tunney was the first openly gay person to serve on the City Council. He was appointed in 2002 to replace Ald. Bernard Hansen by former Mayor Richard M. Daley.

“I will continue to work tirelessly for the ward through my last day on the City Council,” Tunney said in a statement. “As I look ahead, I see so many great ways in which I can continue to give back to the city I love.”

Through his spokesperson, Tunney declined to answer questions. His announcement said he would retire from the City Council. Earlier this month, Tunney told the Sun-Times he was weighing whether to retire, seek re-election to the City Council — or run for mayor.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot tapped Tunney to lead the City Council’s powerful Zoning Committee in 2019, and named him to lead a special City Council committee that shepherded Bally’s plan to build a casino resort in River North earlier this month.

"As first openly gay member of City Council, he never wavered in his advocacy on behalf LGBTQ+ residents and served as a representative voice for the business community," Lightfoot said in a statement. "His perspective will be missed in City Council and I wish him well in his next chapter."

Tunney, 67, is the seventh member of the City Council to announce they will not run for re-election next year, joining indicted Ald. Carrie Austin (34th Ward), Ald. James Cappleman (46th Ward), Ald. Michele Smith (43rd Ward), Ald. George Cardenas (12th Ward), Ald. Harry Osterman (48th Ward) and Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th Ward).

Tunney told the Sun-Times the City Council was “not a good place to work these days.”

Tunney’s decision to retire from the City Council alongside Smith, Osterman and Cappleman will mean new leadership for all of the North Side neighborhoods along the lake, from Edgewater to Lincoln Park.

Ald. Sophia King (4th Ward), Ald. Raymond Lopez (15th Ward) and Ald. Roderick Sawyer (6th Ward) announced bids for mayor in 2023.

Tunney was re-elected in 2019 with 64% of the vote, defeating a candidate supported by members of the Ricketts family, which owns the Chicago Cubs. Tunney and the team ownership clashed repeatedly over renovations to Wrigley Field and its surroundings.

A former chairman of the Illinois Restaurant Association, Tunney has owned Ann Sather, which he expanded from one location to three, since 1981. It is known for its giant sweet rolls, dripping in icing.

Tunney was fined $2,000 for allowing diners to eat inside his Ann Sather restaurant on Dec. 8, 2020, in defiance of a ban imposed by Gov. J.B. Pritzker to stem a surge of coronavirus infections.

Two hours after Tunney announced that he would not run for re-election to the City Council, he endorsed Bennett Lawson, his chief of staff, in the February election. Lawson, who lives in Lakeview with his husband, has served as Tunney's top aide since 2007.

"I am confident in Bennett’s leadership skills, his ability to further enhance the progress and vitality we have achieved in the Lakeview community and his knowledge of how to work successfully with residents, businesses and the many individuals and departments that make up our city government," Tunney said in a statement. "For nearly two decades, Bennett has been an invaluable asset to this ward as he has tirelessly advocated for its residents and businesses alike, offering pragmatic solutions and meeting constituent needs."

Contact Heather Cherone: @HeatherCherone | (773) 569-1863 | [email protected]

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