Voters punch in their picks at a polling place at Lafollette Park, 1333 N. Laramie Avenue. La Risa Lynch/Contributing Reporter.

Voters headed to the polls Tuesday to cast their ballots in the mayor’s race and all 50 aldermanic wards. In the contested 37th Ward, incumbent Ald. Emma Mitts faces three challengers in her re-election bid to win a third term in office.

The latest election poll by Ogden and Fry gave Mitts a solid lead over her challengers, who include Chicago Teacher Union-backed Tara Stamps, Leroy Duncan and Maretta Brown-Miller. The poll showed that 55 percent of likely voters would cast their ballots for Mitts. Her nearest opponent, Stamps, received 23.6 percent, followed by Brown-Miller’s 13.2 percent and Duncan’s 7.9 percent.

Turnout was light at the 37th Ward polling places Austin Weekly News visited. Working the polls at Lafollette Park, 1333 N. Laramie Ave., election judge Patricia Bailey said voter turnout ebbed and flowed throughout the early morning.

She said many residents took advantage of early voting. In the ward’s 40th precinct, 104 voters cast ballots out of 781 registered voters. She expects that to change as a crush of voters usually turn out in late afternoon.

In the 37th Ward, the race for alderman and mayor seemed to be leaning in the incumbents favor. Emanuel faces four challengers who are vying to force the first term mayor into a runoff. Among the challengers are Cook County Commissioner Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, businessman Willie Wilson, activist William “Dock” Walls and Alderman Robert Fioretti (2nd).

Corvette Haley voted for Mitts, even though he expressed concern that she is not as accessible as he would like. For mayor, he voted for Emanuel. Haley said he considered the other candidates, including Wilson, but none stood out.

“To me ain’t no other candidate,” he said. “Mr. Wilson didn’t show me nothing. I was looking for a little bit more out of him than what I got. I listened to the forums, and I was looking for a little bit more. I didn’t get anything out of it.”

Pierre Brown also voted for Emanuel, whose first term, Brown said “started off ugly” with the closing of 50 schools, a fact over which Emanuel’s challengers took him to task throughout the campaign. Brown said the move was needed to improve schools and get rid of bad ones.

“It is going to work out because its putting all the good teachers in one school,” Brown said, adding that the longevity factor was important in his decision to vote for Mitts. Brown said he voted for her “because she has been here so long.”

West Garfield Park resident Moremi T. Alexander said it’s time for a change for the ward. The school closings and the red light and speed cameras were issues for her and the reasoned she voted for Stamps.  As a mother with an autistic son, Alexander said Stamps is in a better position to understand the needs of parents and make schools more accountable 

“She has kids and [CTU President] Karen Lewis is standing with her,” Alexander said of Stamps.

For mayor, Alexander went with Walls.

“I know this is the third time he has ran, however I do see him as an intelligent man and a man that is for the African-American people,” she said. “I know he has to work with all nationalities but I do feel that he would work to get the programs that we need in our communities as well.”

James Taylor, 78,  voted for both Mitts and the Emanuel. The mayor, he said, is doing a fair job “compared to what he had to work with.”

“You can’t do nothing if you don’t have anything to work with,” said Taylor, who also said Mitts has done “a pretty good job” as alderman. He applauded her for bringing in the Walmart and supporting a minimum wage increase to $13 per hour incrementally by 2019.

He said the wage is not like  the $27 he earned when he  retired from Goes Lithograph printing company, “but it will encourage (young people) to look for a better job when they get experienced.”

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