Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel enjoys a solid lead in polls leading up to the Feb. 24 election, although he could still face a runoff.
But wherever Rahm’s support is coming from, not much was to be found in South Lakeview Feb. 10, where Ald. Scott Waguespack, one of the mayor’s most vocal critics, faced off against his only challenger, Elise Doody-Jones, in a debate following a meeting of the South Lakeview Neighborhood Association.
One of the clearest themes of the night was a sound rejection of the mayor and the strong suspicion that Emanuel was funding Doody-Jones’ campaign. Doody-Jones responded to that claim during the debate after an audience member asked about it, saying she had not received any funding from the mayor. She apologized to residents who had received mailers from Emanuel’s PAC, Chicago Forward, which has sent out anti-Waguespack mail.
After Doody-Jones made that claim, an audience member responded, “We don’t believe you.”
The Athenaeum Theatre was surprisingly packed for a neighborhood association meeting, and in fact, some attendees left after neighborhood business was finished, electing not to stay for the debate.
Waguespack, who is the third-least-supportive alderman of Emanuel based on a study by UIC professor Dick Simpson, enjoys strong support among residents in the 32nd Ward. Doody-Jones, a first-time political candidate, has experience working with 1st Ward Ald. Joe Moreno in his 1st Ward First non-profit, and has experience with elementary school education at Goethe Elementary School, where she helped improve the school’s standing and protect it from being closed.
However, Doody-Jones does not live in the 32nd Ward, prompting many to ask why she had chosen to oppose Waguespack. The first question of the night hit on that very topic, but Doody-Jones responded that the new ward map was drawn unfairly and she only lived about half a block from the ward boundary. She did not talk about why she ran in the 32nd Ward instead of running in the 1st Ward, where she lives.
Waguespack repeatedly made reference to how closely he works with neighborhood associations in his ward to get things done, but he acknowledged that limited city budgets still caused issues in his ward, including the loss of a popular bus route.
At one point, Doody-Jones addressed Waguespack’s standing with the mayor, suggesting that Waguespack and Emanuel’s feud was hurting the 32nd Ward.
“A lot of folks feel that the feud with the mayor has hurt us,” she said. During the audience questions portion of the debate, an audience member asked her about that.
“There are parts of the ward under this assumption,” Doody-Jones said, saying that the ward might not be receiving city services because Waguespack didn’t have a good relationship with Emanuel. She said she was expressing ward residents’ beliefs, not her own.
Waguespack said that he didn’t feel any ill will toward Emanuel or dislike him, although he said the feeling may not be mutual. He rejected the idea that the 32nd Ward doesn’t receive equal treatment from the city because he often votes against the mayor’s proposals.
Voters can find their new ward for the 2015 election here, via WBEZ. Registered voters can verify their updated ward information through the Board of Elections Commissioners website.