Unions, super PACs and political organizations that threw their money and support behind slates of Chicago City Council candidates are tallying their batting averages for the first round of voting and figuring out their game plans for the April 4 runoffs.
The stakes are high, as the cash and manpower these groups can bestow could help swing many of the 14 remaining head-to-head contests in which they opt to get involved.
[ Who was elected alderman in each ward, and which wards will be decided in April ]
But Tuesday’s results show once again that even powerful, wealthy groups like the Chicago Teachers Union and Get Stuff Done, a political action committee funded by pro-business allies of former Mayor Rahm Emanuel, are hardly infallible when it comes to championing political hopefuls.
The CTU saw its big bet on mayoral candidate Brandon Johnson pay off, as he advanced to a runoff against Paul Vallas.
The union also endorsed 17 City Council candidates. Five incumbents backed by CTU won outright, while one incumbent and five candidates in open seats made the runoff.
Another six CTU-backed candidates lost Tuesday, according to unofficial results. Overall, the teachers union spent more than $1 million, but much of it went to Johnson. Some of the aldermanic candidates the union endorsed didn’t get any money from it in the first round.
Teachers union President Stacy Davis Gates traced the union’s successes Tuesday, from Johnson on down the ticket, to her late predecessor Karen Lewis proclaiming their plan “to transform the political landscape in this city” after Emanuel closed 50 public schools in 2013.
“Ten years later, here we are,” Davis Gates said.
She pointed to public school teacher Lori Torres Whitt’s aldermanic campaign in the Northwest Side 36th Ward — where Torres Whitt came in second to incumbent Ald. Gilbert Villegas and will face him in the second round — as the kind of campaign the union can now support with money and manpower.
Torres Whitt got about $70,000 from the teachers union political action committee in the run-up to the Tuesday election. As the CTU tries to get Johnson elected mayor, Davis Gates wouldn’t say how much more money Torres Whitt and other favored aldermanic candidates can expect in the next month.
But Davis Gates said members are ready to try to get Torres Whitt — who sits on the CTU executive board — to the City Council.
The CTU-founded and -funded United Working Families political organization also endorsed Torres Whitt, and saw 13 aldermanic candidates they endorsed either win or make the runoff, against six losses. Two outright winners are new faces: Jessie Fuentes in the 26th, and Julia Ramirez in the 12th. UWF, too, spent more helping Johnson than aldermanic candidates.
The Chicago Chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America saw six of its candidates win or make it to runoffs. Most were incumbents.
“In all the cases, we were up against much more money — outside money and donations — and our typical counter to that is to connect with people, canvass, phone bank, text bank,” said CDSA co-chair Steve Weishampel. “We have volunteer power that they don’t and they have money we never will. We know that isn’t always going to work; it isn’t always going to win.”
The progressive teachers union ended up with a better winning percentage than the conservative Fraternal Order of Police, but the police union saw more of its endorsees advance with wins or make it to the runoff.
The FOP endorsed Vallas, giving them a top-of-the-ticket win as he too made the mayoral runoff. It also backed a whopping 26 aldermanic candidates, including two people running in the crowded Far Southeast Side 10th Ward race.
The FOP saw eight incumbents they endorsed win outright, and one more incumbent, Northwest Side Ald. James Gardiner, 45th, appears headed for the runoff, according to unofficial results. FOP-endorsed Bennett Lawson ran unopposed in the open 44th Ward, and two other aldermanic hopefuls backed by the union made the runoff.
Meanwhile, 13 other candidates the police organization threw its weight behind lost on Tuesday.
Get Stuff Done, a Super PAC backed by Emanuel allies and several Chicago business leaders, spent more than $1 million in the first round of aldermanic elections, according to state records. The group, which sought to help pragmatic “Obama Democrats,” had successes defending several moderate incumbents.
Overall, it had 11 outright wins Tuesday and saw three candidates it backed head to runoffs, while two lost.
In more hotly contested wards, including ones where Lightfoot appointees battled to hold on to seats, Get Stuff Done-supported candidates — Ald. Nicole Lee, 11th, and Monique Scott, 24th — made runoffs. Newly appointed Ald. Anabel Abarca, 12th, however, was defeated Tuesday. Newcomer Jeylú Gutiérrez also won in the Southwest Side 14th Ward.
Spokesman Ron Holmes considered the night a success. “The voters of Chicago have sent a clear message that they want a City Council that gets stuff done,” he said. ” … In the coming weeks, we’ll be partnering with neighbors in wards across the city to help them elect champions that will deliver on their behalf.”
The Illinois Realtors Fund, whose donors are real estate professionals from around the state, spent roughly $670,000 in the campaign’s first round defending a similar cohort of successful incumbents to the Get Stuff Done PAC.
It enjoyed 10 outright wins Tuesday, with six aldermanic runoffs and three losses.
The Realtors’ chief concerns are rising property taxes, a boost in the real estate transfer tax and any organizing to lift the state ban on rent control.
The group also backed a number of candidates who were forced into April runoffs, including Lee, Scott, Villegas, Jessica Gutierrez in the 30th, Timmy Knudsen in the 43rd and Kim Walz in the 46th.
But the two candidates with direct work in the industry — real estate attorney Ebony Lucas in the 4th and Andre Peloquin in the 48th — both failed to reach the runoffs in their wards, which were among the city’s most crowded open races
Illinois Realtors transferred an additional $500,000 into the organization’s super PAC the day after the election, potentially to become involved in support of a mayoral candidate.
“We have engaged in conversations with both mayoral candidates regarding their views on improving Chicago, its communities and creating more available and (affordable) housing. We will do an analysis and make a decision soon,” spokesman Anthony Hebron said.
The Illinois Network of Charter Schools’ Action Independent Committee, a super PAC that’s received a bulk of its funding from the heirs to the Walmart fortune, similarly backed a handful of winning incumbents.
Three charter committee candidates won outright Tuesday, while two made runoffs.
INCS President and CEO Andrew Broy, who is also treasurer of the super PAC, said the group would decide soon how involved to get in the mayoral face-off.
While Vallas is “clearly better on charters, on a range of public issues we care about, our work will be determining how we can add value on the independent side using our membership base, charter households,” he said.
Donors who were reluctant to go after an incumbent mayor will be likelier to get off the sidelines in the runoff, Broy predicted.
“I think the tax policies and proposals by Brandon Johnson will energize some people who think that’s not good for the city,” he said. “There will be substantial resources flowing to Paul Vallas because of that.”