New City Council Set to Be More Diverse as Center of Power Moves Left

Video: Joining “Chicago Tonight” are Ald.-elect Angela Clay (46th Ward), Ald.-elect Leni Manaa-Hoppenworth (48th Ward) and Ald.-elect William Hall (6th Ward). (Produced by Acacia Hernández)

Progressive candidates appear to have won at least nine of the 14 City Council runoffs, ensuring that most of the new alderpeople who take office alongside Mayor-elect Brandon Johnson will shift the balance of power at City Hall to the left. 

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Nearly a quarter of the city will get new political leadership in 2023, a result of an unprecedented exodus of veteran alderpeople that led to a generational shift in Chicago politics, with six Black, Latina and Asian American women replacing veteran City Council members, all of them men.

Johnson, the first member of Generation X to be elected Chicago mayor, will replace Mayor Lori Lightfoot, a member of the Baby Boomer generation.

Indicted Ald. Ed Burke, 79, the oldest member of the City Council, will conclude his 54-year political career on May 15 and be replaced by Jeylu Gutiérrez, 34, who will be among the youngest members of the City Council.

The much younger and more diverse City Council set to govern the city for the next four years will also be the most progressive in Chicago’s history, giving Johnson a solid base of support that he could use to translate his priorities and budget plan into legislative accomplishments.

In the highest profile race, housing organizer Angela Clay defeated Kim Walz, who works in government relations for Walgreens, in the contest to represent the 46th Ward, which includes Uptown. Clay will replace retiring Ald. James Cappleman, and become the seventh Democratic Socialist elected to the City Council.

Clay, 31, will be the youngest member of the City Council when she takes office alongside 32-year-old Ald. Timmy Knudsen, who declared victory over Brian Comer in his bid for a full, four-year term representing Lincoln Park after being appointed by Lightfoot.

Even with the backing of Chicago DSA, the Chicago Teachers Union and United Working Families, Clay was outspent by Walz, who had the financial support of the Illinois Realtors, the Illinois Network for Charter Schools and the Get Stuff Done political action committee chaired by former aides to former Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

Steve Weishampel, the co-chair of the Chicago chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America, said Clay’s victory was especially sweet because the group failed to elect five other City Council challengers they endorsed. All six self-proclaimed Democratic Socialists running for re-election won new terms in February.

“There is no doubt it is a new era at City Hall,” Weishampel said.

Five Democratic Socialist members of the City Council are set to lead committees starting in May, under a plan approved by the City Council just before Johnson’s victory.

That will give the most progressive members of the City Council a significant amount of power at City Hall, and they have vowed to use it to transform proposals blocked by the Lightfoot administration and her allies from advancing.

“The voters really sent a clear message,” Weishampel said, adding that while the Chicago DSA will no longer have to fight to be heard at City Hall, members will continue to work to ensure the needs of working people are high up on the agenda for the new City Council.

And if need be, the group will hold its allies’ feet to the fire — and hold them accountable, Weishampel said.

“We want to see progress,” Weishampel said.

In the neighboring 48th Ward, small business owner Leni Manaa-Hoppenworth declared victory over affordable housing developer Joe Dunne. Manaa-Hoppenworth will join the Progressive Caucus along with Clay.

Manaa-Hoppenworth is set to be the first Filipina alderperson and is set to serve alongside Ald. Nicole Lee, who won a landslide victory in the 11th Ward. Lee, who was appointed by Lightfoot, is the first Chinese American elected to the City Council.

The South Side is set to get four new progressive alderpeople, with the victories of Lamont Robinson in the 4th Ward, Desmon Yancy in the 5th Ward, William Hall in the 6th Ward and Ronnie Mosley in the 21st Ward.

Voters on Chicago’s Northwest Side delivered a split verdict, picking Ruth Cruz, who was backed by Johnson, to represent the 30th Ward, which includes Belmont Cragin, while re-electing the more moderate Ald. Gilbert Villegas to represent the 36th Ward instead of a candidate backed by the Chicago Teachers Union.

The progressive push faltered on the city’s Southeast Side, where Chicago police Officer Peter Chico won his bid to represent the 10th Ward, and on Chicago’s Far Northwest Side, where Ald. Jim Gardiner won a second term representing the 45th Ward despite being the subject of multiple probes by the city’s inspector general.

On the city’s West Side, Ald. Monique Scott easily won a full, four-year term representing the 24th Ward, which includes North Lawndale, while Ald. Chris Taliaferro narrowly led in his bid for another term representing the 29th Ward.

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

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