By Reema Amin
As a child in the 1960s, Emma Mitts and some of her 15 siblings would often hide their shoes in the road as they walked to school on rainy mornings in Elaine, Ark.
They couldn't afford new pairs if the ones they had broke during the long, muddy walk.
Mitts, the daughter of a farmer, then looked up to the ceiling of her West Side aldermanic office as she recalled the memory.
"I'm sorry," she said through sobs. "I'm not crying because I'm sad; I'm crying because I'm grateful for where I am today."
A young Mitts — now 59 — wouldn't know then that she'd move to Chicago and work several jobs before being appointed alderman of the 37th Ward. She wouldn't know that she'd keep that seat for 15 years without facing a real threat of losing her spot – until now.
Since Mitts became alderman in 2000, she's received at least 58 percent of the vote in the 2003, 2007 and 2011 elections. But in the Feb. 24th election, she was just shy of the 50.1 percent needed to win outright and now faces herfirst runoff race against CPS teacher Tara Stamps.
Mitts reports receiving nearly $160,000 in campaign funds, according tostate election records. That's less than Stamps' $221,000, but the alderman can also tally up an additional $52,000 on campaign mailers and ads paid for by Chicago Forward, a political action committee aligned with Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
Chicago Forward's support doesn't help Mitts rebut the repeated criticism that she's been a rubber stamp for Emanuel, facing a runoff himself. Her opponent often cites a University of Illinois at Chicago study that shows Mitts voted with the mayor 97 percent of the time between 2011 and 2014.
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