Deborah Graham perhaps started her aldermanic career in an unenviable way.

Last year, Mayor Daley appointed Graham, then a state legislator, to complete the term of Ald. Isaac “Ike” Carothers after he pled guilty to federal bribery charges.

The tough part was separating herself from the tainted legacy of her predecessor. The 44-year-old, former city employee is well-positioned going into her first aldermanic election next Tuesday Feb. 22. But her “ties” to Carothers-or at least the perception of those ties-could be a stumbling block.

“(Carothers) did a great job of handling the community, but he’s responsible for the decisions he made…I can’t account for anyone else’s behavior,” she said. “All I can account for is me.”

A West Side native, she earned a bachelor’s degree in business from Robert Morris College. Before her election to the Illinois State House in 2002, she worked for Chicago’s Department of Planning and Development as a relocation specialist and later a coordinator of special projects-she held that job until her aldermanic appointment in March 2010.

After nearly a year in the City Council, Graham is eager to continue the work she’s started. She says she’s spent much of her first year touring the ward, talking to residents and organizing public meetings.

She touted spearheading an effort to get the city’s emergency management office and the police department to assess the priority of 911 calls. She’s organized a community meeting with Police Supt. Jody Weis and is working with leaders at Austin Polytechnical Academy to boost manufacturing job-training on the West Side.

Job training, along with affordable housing, will continue to top her list of priorities for the next term. Although she has seven challengers in the race, Graham has been able to garner a lengthy list of endorsements, including the Chicago Sun-Times, which “cautiously” backed her, citing, in part, her experience in public office.

-Sarah Ostman,

Deborah Kadin contributed to this story.

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