Two aldermanic candidates who were convicted of corruption charges during their tenure as aldermen may have paid their debts to society, but voters failed to absolve them at the polls Tuesday.
Wallace Davis Jr. in the 2nd Ward and Percy Giles in the 37th, both hoping to regain their lost City Council seats, went down in last Tuesday’s election by wide margins. Davis, former alderman in the 27th Ward, came in last in the six-person 2nd ward aldermanic race. He garnered just over 10 percent of the vote, or 1,072 votes cast.
Giles, running to take back the seat he was booted from in the 37th Ward, did better than Wallace, but also barely nudged above 10 percent of the vote, coming in third in the six-person race with only 759 votes.
Davis, 55, served as 27th Ward alderman on the West Side from 1983 until 1987, when he was convicted of extortion charges stemming from an FBI corruption probe called Operation Incubator. Davis, who completed a four-year prison stint in 1991, now runs Wallace’s Catfish Corner on West Madison Street.
Giles, 55, was convicted in 2000 of pocketing more than $91,000 in bribes. He was arrested in the sweeping federal Operation Silver Shovel investigation and was sentenced to 39 months in jail.
Despite the lopsided outcomes, Davis and Giles fared better than two other convicted former aldermen, the 25th Ward’s Ambrosio Medrano, 53, and the 15th Ward’s Virgil Jones, 57.
The Illinois Supreme Court ruled on Feb. 23, just days before the Feb. 28 primary election, that Medrano and Jones, both convicted in Operation Silver Shovel, were not eligible to run in Tuesday’s election.
Medrano and Jones had been allowed to run by the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners and the Cook County Circuit Court. The high court, however, ruled that local authorities should have followed a state law disqualifying candidates who are convicted, unpardoned felons.
Davis and Giles, meanwhile, were allowed to run because no legal objections to their candidacies had been filed
While none of the convicted former aldermen found redemption Tuesday, Chicago voters have been historically kind to incumbents tainted by scandal.
In fact, they already gave Giles one second chance, re-electing him as 37th Ward alderman in 1999 shortly after he was indicted for bribery and extortion, among other charges.
Medrano, especially, has been vocal about his rehabilitation after serving 21 months in federal prison in the mid-’90s. Prosecutors said he used some of the $31,000 he accepted in bribes to build an addition to his Pilsen home.
“I made a mistake. I paid the price,” Medrano told the Chicago Sun-Times. “Haven’t you heard of turning over a new leaf?”
Jim Becker, a 24-year Pilsen resident, apparently has. The 54-year-old carpenter said Medrano was the best candidate in the 25th Ward.
“He still goes to City Council meetings, although he doesn’t have to,” Becker said. “He lives in the ward; his interest is in the ward. “Of all the alderman who went down, he was the only one to say, ‘Yeah, I — up. Let’s get on with it.'”
Runoff election in the 24th Ward
In the 24th Ward race, Ald. Michael Chandler will face Sharon Denise Dixon, a social worker, in a runoff election on April 17. Neither candidate captured more than half of the votes from last week’s election. Chandler has been 24th ward alderman since 1995, and is a Democratic Ward committeeman. Dixon is an activist and voter registration organizer with Rainbow/PUSH.