As many as three potential candidates have announced plans to run for 29th Ward alderman next year, and sources say several others are also considering throwing their hat in the ring.
The 29th Ward will take a new form in the 2015 election due to 10-year cycle of redistricting. The ward currently covers portions of Austin, Lawndale, Galewood and Belmont-Central. The newly-drawn ward, however, cuts out nearly all of Belmont-Central. The new map includes a larger section of Galewood and sections of Montclare, Schorsch Village, Belmont Heights, north and south Austin, all of The Island and a larger chunk of Lawndale.
Galewood residents Larry Andolino, a lawyer with Santana Law Office, and Kulmeet “Bob” Galhotra, an attorney with the Cook County Public Defender, both say they’re actively campaigning.
Zerlina Smith is another potential candidate but could not be reached by phone; her Facebook page identifies her as a candidate.
U.S. Rep. Danny Davis (7th) also is vetting candidates, according to Andolino and Galhotra, who both met with the congressman’s staff within the last few weeks. The incumbent, Deborah Graham, says she plans to run for re-election but has not met with Davis’ staff in the vetting process.
Graham added that she’s already visiting block parties and getting her message out., saying, “I’m excited for the democratic process, and I’m looking forward to the campaign.”
Andolino says he decided to run after conducting a poll of residents of the ward that showed dissatisfaction with Graham and high favorability for himself.
According to the poll of 400 likely voters conducted by Victory Research in late June, roughly 29 percent had a favorable view of Andolino and 9 percent had an unfavorable view of the candidate. Sixty-two percent of respondents to the survey had not heard of him or could not rate the candidate for some other reason.
Graham’s favorability was about 30 percent, while residents gave her an unfavorable rating of about 49 percent. The poll showed that 21 percent of respondents could not rate the candidate or had not heard of her.
Andolino said he has heard that a number of other candidates are considering a run, but the names of the potential candidates could not be confirmed.
“It’s going to be a battle,” Andolino said. “When you have multiple candidates running against an incumbent, there’s a very unfavorable opinion on the job she’s doing.”
Andolino said his message to voters is going to focus on economic development for the ward and reducing crime. It is not the candidate’s first time to run for office. Andolino ran a failed campaign for 36th Ward committeeman in 2011 against the ward incumbent, Nicholas Sposato.
Galhotra also is not new to running for office. He lost his challenge earlier this year against Austin state Sen. Don Harmon (39th). Galhotra says he’s already visited 700 to 800 homes, talking to people about his run for alderman. People, he says, are upset about the condition of the ward — potholes, untrimmed trees and flooding streets.
“People are upset about the lack of city services,” he said. “They feel the ward has been neglected, and it shows.”