While on the monitor overhead at the House of Blues downtown Tuesday night, political pundits were dissecting the close Democratic and Republican races, assessing the impact they will have on the U.S. House and Senate in the long term.
Those in attendance at LaShawn Ford’s election night campaign party at the House of Blues Restaurant, 329 N. Dearborn, on the other hand, were in a less pensive and more festive mood.
That’s because Ford, the real estate entrepreneur they had supported, had just won the 8th District state representative race handily, as expected.
As of Wednesday, Ford had received 87 percent of the vote in the race for the 8th, which covers the West Side of Chicago including the communities of Austin, Riverside, Oak Park and Berwyn.
Joining the election night celebration was a rousing contingent of supporters that included Ald. Ed Smith (28th Ward), 5th District State Sen. Ricky Hendon, and Pat Horton, commissioner of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District.
Ford’s win was not confirmed until just after 10 p.m. Tuesday. Up until that point, patrons were entertained by the soulful sounds of the Ultimate Concept Band, a jazz-soul quintet that performed a cover of Frankie Beverly’s “Before I Let Go.” There was also a comedic cameo appearance by proud Chicago native, Damon Williams, who’s a regular on BET’s Comicview.
“If I was elected, my first act would be to get rid of those red light cameras,” Williams joked. “They are completely unfightable in court, and they prevent the police from doing any actual work. Plus, they punish the guy who can outrun them in a high speed chase.”
Jokes aside, shortly, after 10:20 p.m., the man of the hour took the stage, joined by supporters Smith, Hendon and Horton.
“It was a long time coming, and I am deeply thankful for all of your continued support,” said Ford. “When I first decided I wanted to run in 1998, I ran because I was primarily concerned about on-going issues in the community like poor schools, a lack of jobs, and a serious infestation of drug activity. However, losing that race for state representative and again in 2000 gave me the experience I needed to run again to make a difference in the community.
“Looking at the community now, I see that there are still the same problems that existed when I first ran, and now that I am here, I want to make a change. But we can only do it together.”
Though not as close as many other statewide elections, the 8th District state rep race certainly had its share of subplots. Among them was the dethroning of longtime incumbent Calvin Giles during the March primary. Ford’s first political victory ended a reign of 12 years in office for Giles.
Ford, running against Republican Glen Harris and Green Party candidate Nathan Helsabeck, set forth an ambitious plan to convert the still-empty Brach’s site at Cicero and Lake to a large college prep campus. Though drawing the attention of a few Chicago Board of Education representatives, the plan was eventually denied.
Shortly thereafter, Republican opponent Harris died suddenly of a massive heart attack, creating one of the only House races without a Republican candidate.
Ford acknowledged Harris during his victory speech, requesting that the jubilant crowd share a moment of silence for him.
Along with thanking his supporters, Ford distributed wooden plaques to the primary contributors to his campaign. Hendon, Bianca Johnson (who designed Ford’s website), and his mother, Jessie Ford, were recipients as Ford acknowledged the hard work that each put forth in raising funds and gathering signatures for the run to Springfield.
Finally, he invited his fiancee Tieneh Harris and daughter Tia to join him on the stage and personally thanked them for being such strong forces in his campaign.
“They have been there for me through the good times and bad,” Ford said of his fiancee and daughter as he presented them with roses. “I am deeply blessed to have them at my side and am honored to represent the 8th District.”