Ald. Daniel La Spata “encouraged” by narrow margin in 1st Ward in attempt to avoid Chicago runoff against Sam Royko

Ald.  Daniel La Spata “encouraged” by narrow margin in 1st Ward in attempt to avoid Chicago runoff against Sam Royko
Ald.  Daniel La Spata “encouraged” by narrow margin in 1st Ward in attempt to avoid Chicago runoff against Sam Royko

CHICAGO — Freshman Ald. Daniel La Spata (1st) won a narrow majority in his re-election bid on Monday, possibly allowing him to avoid an April runoff against a man whose last name was once a household word in Chicago.

La Spata had 50.1% of the vote after the final batch of postal ballots were counted, leaving him just 12 votes above the minimum required to avoid a runoff against challenger Sam Royko.

It was the latest twist in a city council race that has already seen its share of drama, and the incumbent is tempering the excitement with the knowledge that even though it’s a week after Election Day, the race is far from over.

La Spata, a democratic socialist, finished first last week, but he fell short of a majority at the time with just 49.22% of the vote collected on Tuesday. Royko – the son of famed newspaper columnist Mike Royko – finished second in the four-way competition. If no candidate wins a majority, the top two will face off in the run-off on April 4.

But all postal ballots postmarked by February 28 will be counted as long as they are received by March 14, meaning La Spata will have to hold onto his new margin of victory for the next eight days.

“I feel encouraged by the congregation’s support, but save the ‘safe’ until the last vote is counted,” La Spata said in a text message to the Chicago Sun-Times.

He summed it up in a tweet, calling it “a postbiter.”

Sam Royko declined to say whether he expected any outstanding mail-in ballots to push La Spata back into a runoff. But his campaign offered a simple reaction to the latest posting.

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“Votes are still being counted,” said Aviva Bowen, the challenger’s spokeswoman.

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Joshua Kaufman, La Spata’s campaign manager, agreed.

“As I just told our team, this doesn’t change anything,” Kaufman said in his own statement to the Sun-Times. “We obviously hope to win outright, but we are at full speed towards a run-off.

“Very few people predicted that we would even have a chance of avoiding a runoff with all the money spent against us in this race. This shows what our relentless volunteers and organizers understood from the start, that every vote counts.”

And while they may not all be returned, 1,791 requested mail-in ballots can still be returned from the ward — which includes parts of the Logan Square, West Town and Wicker Park neighborhoods.

“We’re excited!” Chris Ridgeway, La Spata’s director of communications, said in a statement. “Feel confident, but of course know we have to wait until all the votes are in. For example, it’s possible for another group to trend down. But the trend for each rolling update has been that we’ve gone higher.”

Right from the start, the race was considered one of the city council competitions of the year.

La Spata, 42, met Sam Royko, 35, a lawyer; Stephen “Andy” Schneider, 43, a magazine editor and publisher; and former Ald. Proco “Joe” Moreno, 50.

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Royko’s late father made a career of spitting on Chicago politicians in print at the Chicago Daily News, Sun-Times and Tribune.

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And Moreno tried to make a comeback four years after La Spata kicked him out amid Moreno’s alcohol-fueled implosion, which included a drunken crash in the Gold Coast. The former councilman credited two years of counseling with helping him get his life back on track.

But Moreno fell far short in his bid to regain his council seat.

The last count on Monday led La Spata with 50.1%, Royko second with 23.46%, Schneider third with 19.63% and Moreno last with 6.82%.

Whatever ultimately happens in Ward 1, runoff is expected in at least 13 other wards – Sørside’s 4th, 5th, 6th, 10th, 11th and 21st; Westside’s 24th; Northwest Side’s 30th, 36th and 45th; and Nordsiden’s 43rd, 46th and 48th wards.

In the Vestsiden’s 29th ward, Ald. Chris Taliaferro had his slim majority, escaping a runoff against challenger CB Johnson by just 35 votes after Monday’s mail-in ballots were counted.

The video in the player above is from a previous report.

(Source: Sun-Times Media Wire – Copyright Chicago Sun-Times 2023.)

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