Jim Gardiner defeats incumbent John Arena to become new 45th Ward alderman
by BRIAN NADIG
It will never be known if 45th Ward aldermanic candidate Jim Gardiner met his goal of visiting every home in the ward, but he apparently knocked on enough doors to defeat two-term incumbent John Arena to become the ward’s new alderman.
Gardiner, a Chicago firefighter, pulled off a stunning upset by defeating the well-financed campaign of Arena, who was backed by the Service Employees International Union and the Chicago Teachers Union. Gardiner was endorsed by 27 building trade, police and firefighter unions.
Gardiner said late Tuesday night that he is proud of his campaign volunteers and feels “good” about the results but is waiting for final numbers before saying that he had won the race.
With 47 of 48 precincts reporting in the ward, Gardiner received 7,326 votes, or 51.81 percent of the total votes cast, Arena received 5,008 votes, or 35.42 percent, Chicago Park District regional manger Marilyn Morales received 1,276 votes, or 9.02 percent, and former Jefferson Park Neighborhood Association president Robert Bank received 529 votes, or 3.74 percent, according to Chicago Board of Election Commissioners.
“We’re disappointed in the results, but I’m incredibly proud of the work we’ve done to build an inclusive, diverse and safe community. I will continue to look forward to finding places to work to continue to move our community forward,” Arena said in a statement on Tuesday night.
Since his re-election in 2015, Arena has been at the center of several zoning-related controversies in the ward, including the mixed income proposal at 5150 N. Northwest Hwy. That proposal set off a firestorm of debate on social media, and a group of residents raised $40,000 to fund an unsuccessful legal challenge to a settlement agreement, which set the stage for the proposal.
Arena’s office kept a list of about 80 government workers who expressed opposition to the proposal on social media, and Arena has sought disciplinary action against dozens of them for making what he said was “racially charged” comments about the project. In some instances, city workers compared the development to Cabrini Green.
Arena has sometimes worked on zoning proposals for months with developers and the ward’s advisory committee, whose meetings are closed to the public, and waited as long as a year to notify constituents about the proposal. Gardiner has said that his advisory committee meetings would be open to the public.
In the last 2 months, Arena’s campaign focused on the Ed Burke scandal, touting in campaign mailers Arena’s efforts to bring more transparency and accountability to the City Council.
In the 2011 and 2015 races, Arena defeated Chicago police lieutenant John Garrido in runoff elections. The 2011 race was decided by 30 votes.