Four years ago, Ald. Deborah Graham avoided a runoff by winning the 29th Ward seat in a crowded field of eight candidates.

Today, Graham, 48, finds herself in unfamiliar territory. She won just 41 percent of the vote in the Feb. 24th election, forcing her into the April 7th runoff with police Sgt. Chris Taliaferro, 49.

The race has become heated, with Graham raising more than $260,000 since Jan. 1, according to a new report from Illinois PIRG – far more than her opponent, who’s raised just under $32,000.

But Taliaferro isn’t too concerned about falling behind in the funding race. He pointed out that he spent less than Graham leading up to February’s election and was still able to force a runoff.

“The vote is stronger than the dollar,” he said. “It doesn’t necessarily take a lot of money to get the support of the community.”

The race was neck in neck March 17, when a poll conducted by Ogden and Fry for Aldertrack showed each candidate each getting 30 percent of the vote, leaving 40 percent of those surveyed undecided just three weeks before election day.

That’s not good for the incumbent, said Dick Simpson, a political science professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago and a former Northside alderman.

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