The highly competitive Democratic Primary race for the 8th District Illinois House seat between incumbent state Rep. Calvin Giles and Ford tilted toward the challenger early.
Problems with new electronic voting machines caused confusion in some races throughout Tuesday night’s election. Vote counts were delayed or missing in several races from precincts across the state. About an hour after polls closed, precinct counts were reported for the governor, lieutenant governor, treasurer and Cook County Board president races only.
But by 9 o’clock and with 6 precincts reporting, Ford was leading Giles 57.5 percent to 42.5 percent. Ford was leading Giles handily in four of the six early precincts and Giles was barely leading in the other two.
The early results signaled a victory for Ford, who campaigned aggressively against Giles since launching his effort last October.
At around 10 o’clock late Tuesday, Ford spoke by phone with Austin Weekly News, sounding confident but cautious as votes continued to come in.
“I feel good about the way everything is going,” said Ford. “I want to thank all the voters for tolerating the campaign process. We’re doing this without the incumbent status and very little exposure.”
Ford said if he won, he would reach out to fellow elected officials who did not support his campaign.
“I’m ready to meet with them so we can start working together for the 8th District,” he said. I have no hard feelings to any of the party people.”
Ford, 33, was confident prior to the election, predicting that he would pull the upset in winning the 8th District legislative House seat over Giles, a six-term incumbent.
Giles and Ford squared off for the seat twice before in 1998 and 2000. Giles, 44, bested Ford both times.
Ford predicted his victory would come in part due to the 2000 realignment of the 8th District, which covers Austin, and portions of Oak Park, Riverside, Forest Park and Berwyn.
A former Chicago schoolteacher, he said education, HIV-AIDS prevention and awareness, and providing resources to ex-offenders would be his top issues for the district.
Ford didn’t appear at his West Side election headquarters until around 10:30. He said he would sever some ties with his West Side real estate business, but would still make final decisions on business dealings.
Giles, nephew of former Chicago Ald. Percy Giles, was first elected in 1993, and was seeking re-election in the face of a number of hurdles, including unpaid fines to state election officials topping $144,000. Giles settled fines with election offocials in January. Giles, an Austin native, was also criticized for not being more visible in the district. Ford promised to hold regular town hall meetings in the district to keep voters informed. This is his first time holding an elected office.
Ford, also an Austin native, attended Weber Catholic High School and later attended Loyola University, receiving a Bachelor of Science degree in Education. He taught for five years at Bridge Elementary School before starting his real estate firm in 2000.
He said he learned the value of hard work in his pre-teens when he began shoveling snow in front of the church where his family attended, and began speaking to family and friends about his desire to “greatly impact the Austin community.” These assertions would earn him the nickname “The Alderman” from family and friends. Now, they can call him State Rep.
“I was young and didn’t know yet how I wanted to influence the community,” said Ford. “Not unlike many children at that age I was considering becoming a doctor or lawyer. I am not suggesting that legislators can do all things, but legislators can make a difference if they have the heart, ability, and desire.”