Solis, who was appointed by Mayor Daley in 1996, won about 54 percent of the vote, beating challenger Cuahutemoc “Temoc” Morfin, who garnered about 46 percent, according to preliminary numbers from the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners.
“It was very close, and I congratulate my opponent for giving me that kind of a tough race,” Solis said during a phone interview Tuesday night. The alderman was celebrating with his supporters at Lalo’s Mexican Restaurant in the ward’s University Village neighborhood.
The race heated up after neither candidate won at least 50 percent of the vote in the Feb. 22 election, forcing the April 5 runoff with environmental issues dominating the last several weeks of the campaign.
From the start of his runoff campaign, Morfin hammered Solis for accepting money from Midwest Generation, the company that owns two coal power plants in the area.
The power plants, coupled with H. Kramer and Co., a local metal smelter that contributed $8,200 to Solis’ campaign since 2000, have become some of Chicago’s largest sources of pollution, according to a recent Chicago Tribune investigation.
This isn’t the first time Solis beat Morfin, the 40-year-old vice president of Morfin Construction.
The two first ran against each other in 2007, when Solis won outright with about 51 percent of the vote. Morfin earned about 22 percent in that race.
Solis nearly avoided Tuesday’s runoff by winning about 49 percent, just shy of the 50.1 percent need to win. The alderman was again challenged by Morfin, who earned about 28 percent, and Ambrosio Medrano, Jr., son of former 25th Ward alderman and ex-con Ambrosio Medrano, Sr., who earned about 23 percent.
Shortly after losing the election, both Medrano and his father threw their support behind Morfin.
After the February election, Solis, who opposed regulating the coal plant’s emissions at the municipal level, changed his mind and subsequently earned the backing of the Service Employees Internation Union, Illinois’ largest contributor to political campaigns.
Solis says he now supports the Chicago Clean Power Ordinance, which was a pillar of Morfin’s campaign.
“It’s a wake-up call. My constituents voted on a key issue. They made me listen and now I’m going to go through and pass that ordinance on the clean power plant,” Solis told WGN Tuesday night.
Morfin was quick to take credit for Solis’ backing of the ordinance, which he considered a victory for his campaign.
“We made him sign on to the Chicago Clean Power Ordinance. We made him come up with an ordinance to regulate the lead that’s being emitted out in the air and the soil from H. Kramer,” Morfin said Tuesday night.
Morfin said he will challenge Solis again in 2015, but in the meantime he said he wants to focus on his career and his family rather than politics.
As for Solis, who earned an endorsement from Mayor-Elect Rahm Emanuel, he said he already has a list of priorities for his next term.
“Number one, I have to continue to work to improve every neighborhood in my ward. Number two, I have a commitment to pass a clean-air ordinance in the city council. Number three, I have a strong commitment for passing immigration reform,” Solis said.
Solis, who has a record of voting with lame-duck Mayor Daley 98 percent of the time, according to a recent University of Illinois study, said he’s looking forward to working with the new city council and mayor.
The new aldermen will all be sworn in May 16.