Chicago’s Feb. 26 Municipal Election: What to Know

Nicole F. Anderson, News and Co-Managing Editor

The 2019 municipal elections are coming up on Feb. 26. The city of Chicago will vote on the positions for mayor, city clerk, city treasurer and 50 city council (aldermen) positions. If you’re a registered voter, there are many ways to vote including in person at your neighborhood’s designated polling place or by mail.

Chicago’s mayoral candidates

Being the mayor is the highest position in the Chicago government. The mayor is in charge of maintaining, balancing and controlling the budget and appointing leaders to the city’s sister agencies, Chicago Housing Authority, Chicago Public Schools, Chicago Transit Authority, Chicago Police Department, Department of Planning and Development, City Colleges of Chicago and 100 other boards and commissions. Although the mayor is not a voting member of Chicago’s City Council, they do preside over it. The current mayor, Rahm Emanuel, announced in 2018 that he will not run for another term, which made Chicago history. There are 14 candidates running for mayor.

Jerry Joyce

Experience: Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office, executive staff; attorney; small business owner


Issues: education, municipal finances, public safety and veterans.

Paul Vallas

Experience: Superintendent of Bridgeport public schools (2012 – 2014); superintendent of Recovery School District of Louisiana (2007 – 2010); superintendent of Philadelphia school district (2002 – 2007); CEO of Chicago Public Schools (1995 – 2001); City of Chicago budget director (1990 – 1993); and executive director for the state of Illinois’ economic and fiscal commission (1985 – 1990).


Issues: infrastructure; schools; ticket reform; clean water; police accountability; police staffing and support; restoring detectives; student safety; CTA safety; balancing the budget; opportunity zones; and affordable housing.

Willie L. Wilson

Experience: Founder and owner of Omar Medical Supplies (1997 – present); owner of Willie Wilson Productions (1987 to present); and franchise owner of McDonald’s (1970 – 1987).


Issues: creating safer neighborhoods; ending property tax increases; re-opening closed schools; legalizing recreational  marijuana; economic development; ending political corruption; ending police brutality; abolishing red light cameras; and generating new revenue.

Toni Preckwinkle

Experience: Chair of Cook County Democratic party (2018 – present); president of Cook County Board (2011 – present); 4th ward alderman (1991 – 2010); high school history teacher (1981 – 1991); and planner for the Chicago department of economic development.


Issues: education; public safety; raising minimum wage to $15; clean water and environmental justice; and appointing LGBTQ representation on the civilian office and police accountability board.

William M. Daley

Experience: Managing partner at Argentiere Capital (2014 – present); chief of staff for the White House during the Obama administration (2011-2012); Midwest chairman for JP Morgan Chase (2004 – 2010); president of SBC Communications (2001 – 2004); secretary of commerce for the Department of Commerce (1997 – 2000); special counsel for the White House during the Clinton administration (1993 – unknown); president and CEO for Amalgamated Bank of Chicago (1989 –  1993); lawyer for Mayer, Brown and Platt; and National Guard.


Issues: making neighborhoods safer, stronger and more affordable; fixing the budget; crime; education; and tax reform.

Garry McCarthy

Experience: Superintendent of Chicago Police Department (2011 – 2015); director of Newark Police Department (2006 – 2011); deputy commissioner of operations for the New York Police Department (2001 – 2006); police officer for the New York Police Department (1981 – 2001); and CEO for GFM-Strategies.


Issues: creating a more open and honest government; education; crime; and finance.

Gery Chico

Experience: Chair for the Illinois state Board of Education (2011 – 2015); board president for the Chicago Park District (2007 – 2010); partner of Chico & Nunes (2004 – present); senior partner of Altheimer & Gray (1996 – 2003); president for Chicago Board of Education (1995 – 2001); and chief of staff for Chicago’s former mayor Richard M. Daley (1991 – 1995).


Issues: public safety; education; job; neighborhood economic development; city finances; and city services.

Susana A. Mendoza

Experience: Illinois comptroller (2016 – present); city of Chicago clerk (2011 – 2016); and 1st district state representative for the Illinois House of Representatives (2001 – 2011).


Issues: public safety; police accountability; strong education; ensure investments; create jobs; fix city finances; protect working families; creating reliable transportation to revitalize neighborhoods; reforming city council practices to eliminate corruption; fighting for more LGBTQ+ rights; safety, and health and empowerment for women.

Amara Enyia

Experience: Public policy consultant (2013 – present); executive director for Austin’s Chamber of Commerce; founder and director of the Institute for Cooperative Economics and Economic Innovation.


Issues: education; housing; clean water and environmental justice; public safety; violence prevention; immigration; economic investment; and economic justice.

La Shawn K. Ford

Experience: 8th district state representative for the Illinois Gereral Assembly (2006 – present); insurance agent; elementary grade social studies teacher for Chicago Public Schools; and real estate broker for Ford Desired Real Estate.


Issues: support Chicago youth; equity in education; inclusive economy; safer communities; improve health and quality of life; transparence, and equity and accountability.

Neal Sáles-Griffin

Experience: Faculty coach at the University of Chicago (2017 – present);

CEO for CodeNow (2016 – current); lecturer at Northwestern University (2016 – present); and founder of the Starter League.


Issues: education; public safety; affordable housing; government accountability; create gainful and more employment opportunities.

Lori Lightfoot

Experience: Co-chair of the Chicago Police Accountability Task Force (2016 – present); president of the Chicago Police Board (2015 – 2018); senior equity partner Mayer Brown LLP (2005 – 2018); chief of staff and general counsel for the Chicago Office of Emergency Management and Communications (2004 – 2005); chief administrator for the city of Chicago’s Office of Professional Standards (2002 – 2004); assistant United States attorney for the U.S. Department of Justice (1996 – 2002); legislative aid; and clerkship with the Michigan Supreme Court.


Issues: investing in education; ending violence; affordable housing; eliminating government corruption; supporting LGBTQ+ Chicagoans; defending immigrants; legalizing cannabis; supporting small businesses; neighborhood investment; police department reform; and creating better jobs.

Robert “Bob” Fioretti

Experience: 2nd Ward Alderman (2007 – 2015); adjunct professor of law at Northern Illinois University; and law partner at Roth Fioretti LLC.


Issues: pension; increasing revenue by building a casino in Chicago and legalizing gambling; legalizing marijuana; police reform; reducing illegal guns and violent crime; education; immigration; building bridges between the government, people and police department; tax reform; and TIF reform.

John Kenneth Kozlar

Experience: Professional Risk Solutions attorney at Aon plc and president of a non-profit.


Issues: education; neighborhood safety; tax and city budget reform; create more jobs; and building relationships in the community.  

The city clerk

The city clerk is an elected position and is responsible for maintaining the city council legislation; selling parking permits, licenses and vehicle stickers; and running the ID program. Chicago’s current mayor, Rahm Emanuel, appointed Anna Valencia in 2016 and she took office the following year. Valencia is currently running uncontested.

Anna Valencia

Experience: City Clerk for the City of Chicago (2017 – present); director of legislative counsel and government affairs for the Mayor’s Office (2016 – 2017); political campaign advisor for AVK Advisors, LLC (2015 – 2016); assistant to mayor Rahm Emanuel and former mayor Richard M. Daley (2011 – 2014).


The city treasurer candidates

The city treasurer is another elected office and they are in charge of the cash and investments for Chicago, the four city employee and the one Chicago teachers pension funds. The current City Treasurer, Kurt Summers, was re-appointed the last few years by Rahm Emanuel; however, last year he announced he would not run for another term. There are three candidates running:

Melissa Conyears-Ervin

Experience: District 10 Illinois state representative for the Illinois State Assembly (2017 – present); manager at Allstate and CS Insurance Strategies.


Ameya Pawar

Experience: 47th ward alderman for Chicago (2011 – 2019)


Peter Gariepy

Experience: Certified public accountant for BKD LLP.


The aldermanic positions for the 50 wards

The aldermen make up Chicago’s City Council, which is Chicago’s legislative government. They serve as neighborhood leaders and are able to help fix or solve something going on in your community such as better CTA services, street maintenance, amongst other things. The term for an alderman is four years and all 50 aldermen are up for vote for this upcoming election. To find out more information about who is running in your ward, please visit: