Election update: It’s Arena vs. Garrido – again – in the 45th Ward aldermanic race


Voters in the 45th Ward can expect to see campaign literature in their mailboxes for another month, as there will be a runoff election in the ward’s aldermanic race.

The race will be a rematch of Alderman John Arena, who is in his first term, and Chicago police lieutenant John Garrido, who lost to Arena by 30 votes in the 2011 runoff.

Neither Arena nor Garrido reached the 50-percent threshold in the Feb. 24 municipal election, and the runoff will be held Tuesday, April 7.

With all of precincts in the 45th Ward reporting, Arena had 5,833 votes (45.49 percent), Garrido had 5,094 votes (39.73 percent), former Beaubien School Local School Council member Michelle Baert had 1,695 votes (13.22 percent) and attorney Michael Diaz had 201 votes (1.57 percent), according to unofficial election results from the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners.

“We’re fired up and ready for round two,” Arena said of the runoff. “We always knew we would win the most votes. It was just a question of breaking that 50-percent mark the first go-around or getting it done in a runoff. Now it’s up to the 45th Ward to decide whether we want to continue to move forward.”

On election night, Garrido said that the election results indicate that the ward’s constituents do not approve of Arena’s performance in the past 3½ years. “It shows that his vision is not the vision of the ward,” Garrido said. “People don’t want a combative alderman who doesn’t listen to the community.”

Garrido said that he looks forward to meeting more of the ward’s residents as he campaigns over the next six weeks and to listening to their concerns.

Arena has received a lot of media attention for his criticisms of the mayor’s administration and policies. Arena is a member of the Progressive Caucus, which is often at odds on key issues with Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who is facing a runoff election against Jesus “Chuy” Garcia.

Arena served as the vice president of the Portage Park Neighborhood Association before his election as alderman in 2011. As a member of the association, Arena was a frequent critic of then-alderman Patrick Levar, who retired in 2011 after 24 years in office. Arena also is the 45th Ward Democratic committeeman.

Arena and Garrido differ on several issues.

Arena has called for greater residential density near the ward’s business districts in order to attract more stores and to revitalize those areas.  Arena’s staff recently announced plans to create a new revitalization study for Jefferson Park, similar to one that was put together for the Six Corners shopping district.

Garrido has maintained that the ward’s business districts can be revitalized without large increases in density and points to nearby Edison Park as an example of a predominantly single-family community with a successful commercial area. “This is not Bucktown,” he said of the 45th Ward.

Arena said that he has a successful process in place for gathering community input on zoning proposals and that under Levar the ward lacked transparency on development matters. At a debate, Arena said that prior to becoming alderman, community discussions of “where we ought to be going” were not held.

At debates, Garrido charged that Arena’s zoning advisory board has met behind closed doors and that there have been unnecessary delays in releasing development plans to the community. Garrido pledged to put development plans on his Web site within 24 hours of receiving them.

The aldermanic race in the ward has featured large sums of money being spent by political action committees.

The Service Employees International Union Illinois Council has sent mailers touting the accomplishments of Arena and accusing Garrido and Baert of being Republicans. Both challengers claim to be independents, and Garrido said that he has taken a Democratic ballot in about six primaries.

Meanwhile, the Democrats for Education Reform Independent Committee Illinois and Chicago Forward have sent out several mailers attacking Arena on issues such as taxes and education. Those two committees reportedly have been linked to Emanuel.

The education reform political action committee endorsed Diaz, who entered the race a couple of weeks before the deadline for candidates to file their nominating petitions to be on the ballot. Diaz’s campaign was run by a consulting firm with ties to Emanuel.

Election morning started with Arena tweeting that the Garrido campaign was responsible for spreading fish bait by the entrance of the Arena campaign office. Garrido responded that Arena’s claim was false and a desperate attempt for publicity.