Rodriguez-Sanchez appears to be next alderman of 33rd Ward
by KEVIN GROSS
It appears that candidate Rossana Rodriguez-Sanchez held onto her 13-vote lead in the 33rd Ward runoff election to become the next alderman against incumbent Deb Mell in one of the closets elections in the city’s history, although a possible recount is possible.
"I was thinking of this narrative of fear…Our opponent was always trying to grow that fear (of me), that ‘she wants to defund the police,’ that ‘she’s a communist,’ that ‘we’re all going to die,’ that ‘she’s going to municipalize your house and everyone’s going to come live in it’." Rodriguez-Sanchez said in a speech at her victory party on April 18 at Surge Coffee Bar and Billiards, 3241 W. Montrose Ave.
"But the reality is that we are trying to do something different. We cannot be scared if we want to create change for the world," she said. "I want to say thank you to every one of you (campaign volunteers) that actually had to face the fear of going to a door and talking to people, because I know that’s real."
According to official results from the Chicago Board of Elections Commissioners, Rodriguez-Sanchez received 5,754 votes, or 50.06 percent of total votes cast and Mell received 5,741 votes, or 49.94 percent.
The race was "too close to call" for weeks as the Board of Elections finished counting mail-in and provisional ballots through April 16. Mell has since filed for a discovery recount to find possible irregularities in up to 25 percent of precincts, although Chicago Board of Elections spokesman Jim Allen said that the outcome is official.
"A discovery process allows candidates in close contests to request a review of all the documents, including ballots," Allen said. "It could be a variety of things, from the ballot applications and who’s allowed to vote, or any ballots themselves that might have been marked by underlining or circling, versus connecting the arrow. They tend to focus on the paper ballots where the most errors could occur.
"A discovery recount doesn’t change the election outcome, it’s a fact-finding process for either side" to build a case for a full recount in front of a judge, should either candidate decide to do so, Allen said. "Both candidates filed – perhaps as a safeguard – for a full recount and preserved the right to a recount, on Monday April 8, which was the deadline."
The discovery recount is tentatively scheduled to occur on Friday, April 26. "Whether a full recount occurs (afterward) is up to the candidate and the Circuit Court to determine," Allen said.
Rodriguez-Sanchez said she isn’t worried about a recount.
"The mail-in and provisional ballots already went through an incredibly thorough process" via machine counting, she said. She also said she believes that a recount could lead to less votes for Mell.
Deb Mell or members of her staff did not return calls requesting comment.
Rodriguez-Sanchez campaigned in support of issues such as housing affordability and rent control, an elected school board, participatory budgeting and environmental proposals similar to the "Green New Deal," and she harped against Mell’s alleged ties to real estate developers.
Rodriguez-Sanchez is a member of the Democratic Socialists of America, along with new aldermen-elects Daniel La Spata (1st), Jeanette Taylor (20th), Byron Sigcho-Lopez (25th), Andre Vasquez (40th) and incumbent Alderman Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th).
"I think we’re going to align in a lot of ways with them (the existing Progressive Caucus). One of our main directions is to perhaps move the Progressive Caucus farther to the left," Rodriguez-Sanchez said in an interview. "But at the same time, if we are able to create a Socialist caucus, we are going to be able to start introducing and voting on ideas that are a lot bolder" such as Medicare for all or "Green New Deal"-style initiatives.
Rodriguez-Sanchez said that her first priorities as alderman would be to address housing displacement, protect members of the ward’s immigrant population from deportation, and to continue "ensuring we have an organizing, participating and engaged community."
Mayor Rahm Emanuel first appointed Mell to the City Council in 2013 after the retirement of her father Richard "Dick" Mell, an alderman since 1975. She was the state Representative in the 40th Illinois House District prior to becoming an alderman.
During the campaign, Mell highlighted her record of providing strong constituent services and advocated for affordable housing, attacked Rodriguez-Sanchez for being "pro-communism" and stressed in numerous debates, interviews and questionnaires that her record should be examined independently from her father’s because she is a different person.