From the moment the news reports came in early Tuesday morning from political experts predicting a near record low voter turnout, everything seemed to be in 8th District State Rep. Calvin Giles’ favor. But by late Tuesday, that wouldn’t be the case.
Shortly after the results began coming in, the more than 30 Giles supporters at his West Side campaign headquarters confidence began to wane as his opponent, Austin businessman LaShawn Ford took a lead in early precinct accounts. It was a lead he wouldn’t relinquish.
“I want to thank everyone that contributed to this campaign. As well as everyone who voted,” Giles said to supporters earlier in the evening. “There were many obstacles in the process: The new voting machines and the frigid temperatures for example. But what I expect we’ll prove in this election is that a man not drenched in riches can still win and be successful against a candidate with unlimited resources and funds, such as Mr. Ford. I think my record speaks for itself and I am looking forward to opening that bottle of champagne shortly there after.”
Despite facing one of his toughest challenges in his 12-year political career, Giles was confident while facing supporters at his West Side campaign headquarters about an hour and half after the polls closed at 7 p.m.
Everything looked set for a victory, but as the hours dragged on Giles seemed to realize just how cold that champagne would be once opened.
Ford won an election that many felt would be a struggle because of Giles’ incumbent status. Early precinct results were disproportionately in favor of Ford.
“It’s still early, it’s not over yet,” said one supporter as the clock neared 11 p.m. and with results still trickling in.
But eventually the campaign headquarters lost its early vibrancy and enthusiasm. With 81 percent of precincts reporting by press time, Ford led 57 percent to Giles’ 43 percent. Giles, though, was testy in talking to the Austin Weekly News as he trailed Ford Tuesday night.
“Only 17 percent have reported, it’s still a lot of time, I have no comment,” he snapped.
Most of the supporters began leaving late Tuesday. Those who remained sat sullen in their chairs.
Giles’ loss puts a snag in a one-time promising political career. Giles, nephew of former Chicago Ald. Percy Giles, was elected in 1993. But the incumbent received criticism for failing to pay state fines concerning late filings of his campaign finance disclosure reports.
Giles was slapped with $144,000 in fines by the Illinois State board of Elections, a portion of the fines dating back to 2000. Giles settled the fines with state regulators in January to avoid being bounced from the March 21 Primary. Giles was also saddled with the label as a “do-nothing” politician for his low-key style and less-than-stellar legislative record.
Along with losing his seat, Giles would lose his chairmanship of the House Primary and Secondary Education committee. Giles, an Austin native, attended Holy Trinity High School, and graduated from Northeastern Illinois University receiving a bachelor’s in Management and Finance.