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Chicago expects low voter turnout in today's 14 runoffs for City Council

Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM

Hundreds of thousands of dollars in mailings and phone calls; thousands of hours putting up signs and passing out fliers — now it comes down to which voters are willing to get out and cast ballots on Tuesday.

The Chicago Board of Election Commissioners predicts fewer than one in four voters will turn out in the 14 wards around the city where run-off elections for alderman are scheduled.

A low turnout generally — though not always — favors incumbents, even recent appointees such as Ald. Tim Cullerton and Ald. John Rice in the Northwest Side 38th and 36th Wards respectively, where they face challenges from property manager Tom Caravette and firefighter Nick Sposato.

In four wards, the 41st, 43rd, 45th and 46th, all on the North Side, the incumbent has retired and the wards will get a new alderman no matter who wins.

Absentee and early voting ballots are running highest in the far Northwest Side 41st Ward, where longtime Ald. Brian Doherty, the city council’s lone Republican, is retiring.

Though the elections are non-partisans, the 41st and 45th wards on the Northwest Side offer voters a choice between Democrats and Republicans with appreciable ideological differences on social and economic issues.

Polls are showing the incumbents — most of them supported by mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel and unions — with comfortable leads in most cases.

“I need a new partner ... that partner is a City Council that wants to work in the spirit of reform and change to the way business is conducted in city government,” Emanuel said Monday. Though he has endorsed mainly incumbents who had wide leads over their challengers in the first round of voting, Emanuel said he endorsed those committed to supporting his changes for schools, ethics laws, no-bid contracts and Tax Increment Financing (TIF) districts, he said.

Bernie Stone, 83, one of the longest-serving aldermen, faces a spirited challenge in the Far North Side 50th Ward from CPA Debra Silverstein, wife of State Sen. Ira Silverstein.

The Council already has five brand-new aldermen elected in the first round set to join the ranks. Five more aldermen are fairly new, having just been appointed in recent years and having won their first elections Feb. 22. At least four more new aldermen will be elected Tuesday from the open seats.

For profiles on the 14 run-offs, go to

The Cook County State’s Attorney will have prosecutors on hand Tuesday to monitor against vote fraud. In Chinatown, where incumbent Ald. Dan Solis (25th) faces a challenge from community activist Cuahutemoc “Temoc” Morfin, prosecutors fluent in Mandarin and Cantonese will be on hand to guard against electioneering, the State’s Attorney’s office said.

Suburban voters will see races for village boards, school boards and city councils, as well as some high-profile referenda.

Residents in several towns will be electing mayors, including Naperville, Oak Brook, Chicago Heights, Highland Park and Joliet, where voters will choose a replacement for retiring five-term mayor Art Schultz.

Other races of note feature well known atheist Rob Sherman running for Buffalo Grove village clerk and Joanne Ring on the ballot for the Blue Island Park District board, which has been beset by controversy since a Calumet Township official drowned at a park district pool last summer. Ring died suddenly last month, and unless a write-in candidate gets more votes than her, the park board chairman will choose who fills the seat.

And voters in Lockport Township High School District 205 for the sixth time will cast ballots on a plan to build a new high school.

Contributing: John O’Brien and Fran Spielman

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