Gardiner vs. Mathias in 45th Ward aldermanic runoff election; candidates make their final pitches to voters
by BRIAN NADIG
Incumbent James Gardiner and challenger Megan Mathias are making their final pitches to voters in the 45th Ward aldermanic race, knocking on as many doors as possible and discussing key issues with voters prior to the April 4 runoff election.
“The main issues as I said six months ago are still public safety, public safety, public safety,” Gardiner said. “Without that, everything else is secondary.”
Gardiner said groundwork for improved public safety has already started, with the resignation of David Brown as police superintendent and the voters’ rejection of another term for Mayor Lori Lightfoot.
“I will be voting for Paul Vallas,” Gardiner said, adding the former Chicago Public Schools chief executive officer has his endorsement for mayor. “He’ll best address” the city’s crime and other problems, Gardiner said.
Mathias, an attorney, said that her campaign message is resonating with voters, and she expects to win. “Everyone wants better leadership (for the ward),” she said.
Mathias said that her policies are formulated after countless hours of discussing issues with voters and other stakeholders, including police officers on the issue of public safety. “It’s listening to other people,” she said.
Mathias is calling for the city to hire retired police officers to handle issues such as parking, traffic and public events, freeing up other officers for serious crimes. She also is recommending the creation of a small business development center that would focus on retaining businesses in the ward and attracting new ones.
Last week Mathias sent out a mailer on Gardiner, claiming the ward is in “disrepair.”
The mailer states that he has been ignoring some of the ward’s vacancy and infrastructure problems because he is too busy worrying about investigations into his conduct and negative comments about him on Facebook. Suh and several other constituents are suing Gardiner because he restricted their ability to comment on his aldermanic Facebook page.
Gardiner said that he helped attract $450 million in economic development to the 45th Ward and that the ward has received $11 million in infrastructure improvements such as street repaving and lights during the past 4 years. He added that he also remains focused on minimizing property tax hikes.
Mathias announced her campaign in 2021, and since that time, her Old Irving Park home was mapped out of the ward, which now includes portions of Norwood Park and Edgebrook. Mathias has said that that she will move into the ward if she is elected.
In the Feb. 28 election, Gardiner fell 320 votes shy of the 50-percent plus one vote plateau to avoid a runoff election. He received 7,683 votes, or 48 percent.
Mathias received 2,699 votes, or 16.86 percent. The third and fourth place finishers, James Suh and Susanna Ernst, have endorsed Mathias, while the other two candidates, Ana Santoyo and Marija Tomic, have not made a public endorsement in the race.
While Gardiner received about 5,000 more votes than Mathias, the history of Chicago runoff elections indicate that predictions are difficult to make.
Mathias said that she expects the 52 percent who voted against Gardiner in Feb. 28 will be solidly on her side while Gardiner said that he has met plenty of voters who say “they are now supporting us.”
It’s not clear wether the mayoral runoff will bring out more voters in the 45th Ward next month and how they would vote, but of note is that Vallas and conservative candidate Willie Wilson collected about 60 percent of the ward vote in February.
If the ward chooses Vallas over the more progressive Brandon Johnson, that could be good news for Gardiner, who is widely seen as less liberal than Mathias, who has not made a public endorsement for mayor.
Early in-person voting started Monday, March 20. The designated early voting location in the 45th Ward is at the Kolping Society, 5826 N. Elston Ave., but residents can utilize any early voting place in the city.