When the 46th Ward election results came in late on Feb. 22, the results were close. So close, in fact, that the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners had the top contenders, Mary Anne “Molly” Phelan and James Cappleman, at 19.62 percent each.
The numbers have changed slightly since then, and earlier this month the board revised the results, putting Cappleman a mere five votes ahead of Phelan. Both opponents now want to widen the small gap between them and are racing to pick up more votes as the 46th Ward race has been narrowed from the original 11 candidates to just two.
Cappleman and Phelan are running for Ald. Helen Shiller’s open seat. Shiller, who has served the 46th Ward for five terms, ran against Cappleman in the 2007 general municipal election. It was a close race, with Cappleman taking 46.9 percent of the vote against Shiller’s 53.1 percent.
Both Phelan and Cappleman have picked up major support since last month’s election. Cappleman, who has been a community activist in the northside ward for over a decade, has been endorsed by the Northside Democracy for America, five of the nine 46th Ward candidates who didn’t make it to the runoff, and U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL.)
A licensed social worker, Cappleman, who is 58-years-old and openly gay, was also endorsed by the National Association of Social Workers Illinois Chapter Political Action Committee.
“Having worked in the community for over 10 years, James brings a wealth of knowledge and experience that prepares him to be a strong advocate for the 46th Ward and the city of Chicago,” said NASW Illinois Chapter Executive Director Joel Rubin via email.
“We also strongly believe that a social work approach to issues (examining best practices, looking at the underlying reasons) will be the most effective way to address governmental tasks,” Rubin said.
A real estate and property tax attorney, the 39-year-old Phelan has been endorsed by the Chicago Tribune (who supported corporate finance attorney Emily Stewart in the general election), the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce and the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) Chicago Lodge 7.
“As the daughter of a former federal prosecutor, Molly Phelan is committed to holding criminals accountable and making our streets safe,” said Mark Donahue, president of FOP Chicago Lodge 7, in a statement released by Phelan’s campaign. “She has a history of working with police to go after gangs, guns and drugs. Molly is the best qualified candidate to make the community safe.”
Phelan said the reason she was endorsed by the FOP is her four-point plan that uses her experience interning with Chicago’s Gang House/Troubled Buildings unit. Phelan plans to go after drug lords while at the same time expanding after-school programs to help keep kids off the streets.
“[Some] families can’t afford after-school programs,” Phelan said. “I want to make sure that any child that can access an after school program can have it.”
She also points out that Cappleman wants to spend a portion of the $1.3 million in menu money he would receive as alderman on a streetscape program to beautify the environment and bring in business.
“We can’t have business development until the neighborhood is safe,” Phelan said. “That’s why my priority is crime.”
Cappleman agrees that crime and economic development are key issues facing the ward.
Besides working closely with local police, Cappleman is a strong advocate of enrolling repeat offenders in drug rehab programs and said it’s important to give drug addicts the tools to be more self-sufficient.
“Certainly I insist that we need more police on the streets, but I think we need to do more than that,” he said.
Cappleman said many of his plans have come from his years as a community activist. Previously he served as the president of neighborhood group the Uptown Chicago Commission.
He said it’s this work that has helped him foster strong relationships with residents, citing that 90 percent of his donations come from people inside the ward. Cappleman pointed out that about 90 percent of Phelan’s donations come from outside the ward.
But Phelan says she has received more small and large dollar contributions than her opponent, and she’s currently only about $19,000 behind him in donations from inside the ward. Since the last reports were filed, Phelan has filed over $95,000 in donations. Some of Cappleman’s large donations weren’t accessible online, so a definite number is not available. As of Dec. 31, 2010, Cappleman had $67,688.56 in cash on hand and Phelan had $32,054.34.