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Chicago Sun-Times
Chicago Sun-Times
Mitchell Armentrout

Write-in ballots force Taliaferro into 29th Ward runoff — but La Spata ekes out reelection in 1st

Ald. Chris Taliaferro (left) has been forced into a runoff in the 29th Ward, while the final ballot tally for February’s election gave Ald. Daniel La Spata (right) outright victory Wednesday in the 1st. (Sun-Times file)

It’ll be a race to the runoff for West Side Ald. Chris Taliaferro (29th) — and a sigh of relief for Logan Square Ald. Daniel La Spata (1st). 

The official final results, including all eligible mail-in ballots counted by the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners on Wednesday, put Taliaferro 25 votes shy of the majority he needed to win a third term in the City Council outright after the Feb. 28 election.

That places Taliaferro among six incumbent alderpersons forced into runoff contests on April 4, in addition to races for eight other open Council seats and the mayoral showdown between Brandon Johnson and Paul Vallas. 

In the ward races, La Spata found himself just barely on the safe side of the 50% bubble, securing a second term with only 14 votes above the majority required to spare him a runoff. The far-left Council freshman ended up with 50.1% of the 1st Ward vote compared to 23.4% for his closest challenger, attorney Sam Royko, son of the legendary Chicago news columnist Mike Royko. 

“It’s exhilarating, and it’s a relief,” La Spata said. “I was proud of where we were on Election Day, but then to have thousands of mail-in ballots come in overwhelmingly in my favor — I’m really proud of the affirmation the community has given me.”

Sam Royko, unsuccessful 1st Ward candidate (Christopher Dilts/Provided)

Sam Royko commended La Spata on a “hard-fought race,” saying it was “a reminder that every vote matters.”

That’s certainly the case in the 29th Ward, where Taliaferro, an ally of outgoing Mayor Lori Lightfoot, had cruised to reelection in 2019.

Now, he faces another political round, squaring off against community organizer CB Johnson. Since Feb. 28, Taliaferro, the chair of the Council’s Public Safety Committee had been narrowly avoiding a runoff until election officials reported 112 ballots for write-in candidates over the weekend

Those ballots widened the vote pool enough to sink Taliaferro below the 50% mark; he ended up just shy of 49.8%, compared to 39.8% for Johnson. 

Election board spokesman Max Bever said his agency hasn’t been able to find another example throughout the city’s colorful electoral history of write-in ballots being a deciding factor in forcing an incumbent to a runoff.  

A campaign spokesperson for Johnson, who is backed by U.S. Rep. Danny Davis, called it “the best example of democracy in action.”

CB Johnson, City Council candidate in the 29th Ward (Provided)

“More than 50% of voters in the 29th Ward have advised the city that they are not happy with the current alderman,” spokesperson Tumia Romero said. “We plan to convince the others that CB Johnson is the best candidate, who will be responsive to their needs, be active in the community and be a full-time alderman.”

It’s the second disappointing showing for Taliaferro at the polls since last summer, when he came up short in the Democratic primary for a Cook County Circuit judge seat. 

“I’m encouraged and confident that we will prevail in the runoff,” said Taliaferro, a former Chicago police sergeant. “Public safety is the voters’ No. 1 priority, and I have the experience to lead.”

A handful of other sitting Council members have been gearing up for runoffs since the February election, including 36th Ward Ald. Gilbert Villegas, who is up against teacher Lori Torres Whitt, and 45th Ward Ald. Jim Gardiner, who is facing attorney Megan Mathias. 

Three Council members appointed by Lightfoot to fill vacancies over the last year will also have to defend their seats: 11th Ward Ald. Nicole Lee against Chicago Police Officer Anthony Ciaravino; 24th Ward Ald. Monique Scott against business owner Creative Scott; and 43rd Ward Ald. Timmy Knudsen against Sheffield Neighborhood Association President Brian Comer. 

Runoffs are also in the offing for eight wards without incumbents.

On the South Side, state Rep. Lamont Robinson faces Prentice Butler in the 4th Ward; Desmon Yancy is squaring off against Tina Hone in the 5th; William Hall is vying against Richard Wooten in the 6th; Chicago Police Officer Peter Chico is competing with Ana Guajardo in the 10th; and Ronnie Mosley is running against Cornell Dantzler in the 21st.

In the Northwest Side’s 30th Ward, Jessica Gutiérrez and Ruth Cruz are running. And on the North Side, Angela Clay and Kim Walz are squaring off in the 46th, and Leni Manaa-Hoppenworth and Joe Dunne are competing in the 48th.

As for the final mayoral election results, Vallas led with 32.9% of the vote, compared to 21.6% for Johnson, 16.8% for Lightfoot and about 13.7% for U.S. Rep. Jesus “Chuy” Garcia.

Citywide voter turnout in February ended up at 35.9%, a slight increase from 35.5% in 2019. 

Early voting for the runoff starts Monday. 

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