Incumbent Ald. Chris Taliaferro (29th) declared victory in a close runoff election race against C.B. Johnson, head of the Campaign for a Drug-Free West Side.

In a statement released April 12, he thanked faith leaders and local politicians who supported him. He also expressed his support for mayor-elect Brandon Johnson, who both candidates supported. C.B. Johnson’s campaign didn’t respond to a request for comment by deadline, but they previously indicated that they believed that mail-in ballots which are slowly being counted will shift the vote in their favor.

Taliaferro led at the polls from the beginning, but given the number of mail-in ballots that haven’t arrived, both candidates waited for mail-in ballots to come in. Johnson’s campaign previously told Austin Weekly that they expect a late surge from his voters. But Chicago Board of Elections Commissioners spokesperson Max Bever said that, with only four days to go before the mail-in ballot deadline, such a surge was unlikely, and he didn’t expect any major swings in either candidate’s favor.

As of April 12 at 5 p.m., both candidates got more votes recorded, with Taliaferro standing at 5,513 votes, or 51.47% of the vote, and Johnson at 5,198 votes, or 48.53% of the vote. Taliaferro’s lead dropped slightly compared to April 10, from 318 votes to 315.

Bever told Austin Weekly News that, even though there were still 535 outstanding mail-in ballots, the number of returning ballots has been decreasing – which, he said, fits the general trend with mail-in ballots.

“At this point, now that we entered the second week [of counting mail-in ballots], we don’t expect the majority to come back, properly postmarked, by April 18,” he said. “For the remaining five days of U.S. Mail delivery leading up to April 18, it looks like we’re reaching our ceiling.”

Bever also said that, at this point in mail-in ballot counting, it is unlikely that there would be a large influx of ballots in one candidate’s favor. Rather, what the ballots do is make the candidates’ numbers go “a little bit up and a little bit down.”

“While we at the board don’t declare the races officially over [until after April 18], it’s probably not surprising that Mr. Taliaferro declared that [victory] today,” Bever said.

The runoff election results showed a clear pattern that remained consistent as mail-in ballots continued to come in. Taliaferro prevailed in precincts in the Dunning, Montclare and Galewood portions of the ward, while Johnson earned majorities in non-Galewood portions of Austin except in the 16th Precinct in the central Austin, between Austin Boulevard, Chicago Avenue, Menard Avenue and CTA/Metra tracks, which went for Taliaferro.

Taliaferro didn’t respond to calls seeking comment. But in a statement to the media, he said he was “extremely excited about the new opportunities and new possibilities for the 29th Ward and the city of Chicago,”

“We are building on a strong economic and community foundation that provides the needed stability for growth.” Taliaferro said. “I am proud to lead and usher in these great opportunities.”

He thanked his supporters and campaign staff, specifically mentioning his campaign manager, retired Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago (WMRD) commissioner, and former 29th Ward Ald. Isaac Carothers, who served as his campaign coordinator. Taliaferro also thanked Pastor Ira Acree and other Austin faith leaders for supporting him.

“I am grateful for the confidence of my constituents and the outpouring of support given to me during this election,” he said. “We stand victorious because of a better vision for the residents of this ward.”

The press release also indicated that Taliaferro thanked Johnson “for his commitment to the Austin community and look[ed] forward to his continued work in the community.”

Igor Studenkov

Igor Studenkov is a winner of multiple Illinois Press Association awards for local government and business reporting. He has been contributing to Austin Weekly News since 2015. His work has also appeared...