They may not be as exciting or sexy as national elections, but local races often have a bigger impact on people’s day to day lives.
Because so few people come out to vote, a few hundred or even a few dozen votes can be the difference between your candidate or policy winning or losing. This is even truer for special elections, which can easily fly under the radar of anyone who isn’t a political obsessive. But if progressives are willing to organize, these elections can lead to strong results, like those last night in New York and Chicago.
In New York City, Jumaane D. Williams was elected as public advocate, beating a field of 16 candidates. Williams is currently a City Council member, and he ran last year for lieutenant governor on a progressive platform, losing to the incumbent Kathy Hochul. He’ll have to run again this November to assure his position for two more years.
Williams is an activist who has worked with movements against police brutality and racism, and who has been arrested for civil disobedience multiple times. He campaigned on a platform that included universal rent control, legalizing cannabis, and implementing early voting in New York.
Public advocate is a position that often leads to election for higher office; the last two people to hold the job, Bill de Blasio and Letitia James, went on to become mayor of New York City and attorney general of New York State, respectively.
The public advocate is also the first in line to take over for a mayor who doesn’t complete their term. As De Blasio mulls a run for president, Williams’ new position could suddenly become a much bigger deal.
In Chicago, another crowded race had an unexpected result. There will be a runoff to decide the final winner, but one thing is already clear: Chicago will have its first black woman as mayor. The top two candidates are Lori Lightfoot, an openly gay former federal prosecutor, and Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle.
The Chicago mayor’s race, which was spurred by Rahm Emanuel’s announcement that he wouldn’t seek another term, was comprised of an astonishing 14 candidates. Bill Daley, part of a Chicago political dynasty that ruled the city for decades, conceded early in the night.
Both candidates oppose closing public schools, and could change the pro-charter policies put in place by Emanuel.
Elsewhere in Chicago, progressive activist and tenant organizer Maria Hadden won a spot on the City Council. She is also openly gay and raising a daughter with her partner. Her platform included fighting gentrification, supporting public schools, and reviving the empty storefronts in the Rogers Park neighborhood.
Finally, our favorite scumbag billionaires, the Ricketts, lost big in the Chicago City Council race. Incumbent Alderman Tom Tunney survived an attempted ousting by the Ricketts family, who own the Chicago Cubs, and whose Wrigley Field is in Tunney’s ward. The family has fought with Tunney over closing streets on game days, allowing outdoor drinking, and other local issues. During the campaign, the Ricketts donated huge amounts to an organization that sent out negative material about Tunney. It looks like this time their gambit to control Chicago has failed. Sucks!