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Aldermanic Races Heating Up in Two Lakefront Wards

Two lakefront wards, one north and one south, demonstrate the political shifts that are looming over Chicago with election season heating up. The elections in the 2nd and 46th wards are only two of the races that could shake up City Hall next year.

Serving since 2007, Ald. Robert Fioretti (2nd) now leaves his ward, completely re-mapped, spread out and up for grabs. The new ward boundaries stretch from the Gold Coast to Ukrainian Village. Inheriting a wide range of people and incomes, the 2nd Ward now includes college students, middle class communities and condo owners.

Fioretti has been known for his independent nature and willingness to stand up against both former Mayor Richard Daley and current Mayor Rahm Emanuel. Having a completely re-mapped ward may give the new alderman a chance to start a reputation of their own, while Fioretti focuses in on his mayoral run.

Currently, the 2nd Ward has a crowded race with six candidates, including Bita Buenrostro.

Buenrostro, who ran for the alderman title in the 43rd Ward back in 2011 but lost to Ald. Michele Smith, is an immigrant from Iran who came to Chicago at the age of 19. She is currently a senior executive at a corporation that manages three Chicago-area restaurants.

Bita Buenrostro speaks at a debate between six 2nd Ward candidates Tuesday night. Photo Credit: Hannah Rajnicek
Bita Buenrostro speaks at a debate between six 2nd Ward candidates Tuesday night. Photo Credit: Hannah Rajnicek

“Chicago took me in; it is my civic duty to give back,” Buenrostro said. “I want to save the character of the neighborhood. I am just an independent thinker who is listening and responding.”

Buenrostro won’t be focusing on one particular problem in her campaign, but instead is focusing on ward issues that have been neglected, according to her campaign manager and husband, Marcus Buenrostro.

“The best aldermen come from the service industry,” Marcus Buenrostro said. “Bita understands that this job is about the service. You can already see her on the streets cleaning up, that’s just her personality.”

With the remap of the 2nd Ward now stretching across several neighborhoods, Marcus Buenrostro said he believes the alderman has to be as diverse as the ward.

“This is an advantage to Bita,” Marcus Buenrostro said. “Each place has different issues, but she’s diverse enough to do all of it.”

Running for alderman in the 43rd Ward last election also gives her an advantage, Marcus Buenrostro said.

“Having experience is tremendous, she learned a lot from that campaign,” Marcus Buenrostro said. “But, it’s not really about the campaigning for her; it’s about trying to help the community.”

At this point in time, Marcus Buenrostro said it’s important to work with everyone and although they understand Fioretti is now busy with his own election, they would love to have his support.

“We would want him to recognize what Bita has done for the community,” Marcus Buenrostro said.

Other candidates for the 2nd Ward office include Steve Niketopoulos, Alyx Pattison, Cornell Wilson, Brian Hopkins and Stacey Pfingsten, who is a former Fioretti aide.

The biggest challenge for the candidates in the 2nd Ward will be working with the remap, said Paul Green, a political science professor at Roosevelt University.

“They’re dealing with a ward that has nothing to do with the old ward,” Green said. “It’s uncharted territory. The new 2nd Ward is like the voyage of Lewis and Clark, meandering northwest.”

As for the candidates raising funds, Green doesn’t believe Fioretti will endorse anyone.

“He has his own agenda,” Green said. “The 2nd Ward race will be expensive. The candidates are basically colonists.”

While the fight for the office in the jumbled 2nd Ward gets going, a few wards up, in the Uptown neighborhood, Ald. James Cappleman will be campaigning to keep his 46th Ward office.

According to campaign manager, Joseph Randol, the incumbent alderman will be focusing on economic development in his campaign.

“He will be focused on jobs coming in and making sure they are benefitting everyone in the ward,” Randol said. “We’ve also had problems with crime in the ward with different Northside gangs, so he’s also addressing creating programs and social services for students and young people.”

Cappleman has a huge advantage in being an incumbent, Randol said.

“As long as you’re doing what you said you’d do, which he is, having a good record is advantageous,” Randol said.

Randol said Cappleman’s campaign is seeing new supporters every day and that formal support from organizations will come around December or January.

Cappleman faces competition from a long-time Uptown resident and former 46th Ward Ald. Helen Shiller’s chief of staff, Denice Davis.

Davis, who has been a Chicago resident for approximately 30 years, said her experience in politics in the 46th Ward will “absolutely” help her in the race.

“I’ve had loads of experience,” Davis said. “People know my name and know my word. They know what I stand for.”

In her campaigning, Davis has a list of issues that she is focusing in on, including crime around the ward, the elective school board decision, affordable housing and social services.

“I’m also focusing on transparency,” Davis said. “Residents don’t hear about what’s going on until it’s happening. We need to call on all voices to be heard, not just the chosen ones.”

Incumbents or not, candidates across the board have plenty of hurtles to jump over before the February elections. As time ticks away, Chicagoans should expect to see more and more from these campaigns and others around the city.

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