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First Female Alderman Elected in 41st Ward

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Image by biverson via Flickr

In an extremely close race, Mary O’Connor was elected alderman of the 41st Ward with less than 2 percent separating her and challenger Maurita Gavin, according to Tuesday’s preliminary results.

O’Connor received nearly 51 percent of the 12,399 votes cast, while Gavin garnered a little over 49 percent.  A mere 265 votes separated the two candidates, according to the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners.

“Thank you everyone,” O’Connor said Tuesday night.  “I couldn’t have won without you.”

Despite being endorsed by current Ald. Brian Doherty, Rep. Michael P. McAuliffe (R-IL) and several unions, Gavin fell short of replacing her boss, for whom she’s served as a top aide for the last 14 years.

“The fact that we could have won by seven more votes in every precinct is hard,” Gavin’s campaign manager Maureen O’Brien said.

A throng of supporters assembled at O’Connor’s Deli and Market, located at 7280 West Devon Ave., where they patiently awaited the results.  The audience went berserk as O’Connor addressed the room late in the evening.

“My pledge to you, the voters, is to bring a new vision and leadership to our ward,” O’Connor said.

While Gavin and her camp were disappointed in the election results, there was a sense of resilience and unfailing good humor that filled the room.  Speaking eloquently and from the heart, Gavin maintained her grace the entire evening.

“The fact that we came as far as we did is remarkable,” O’Brien said.

The alderman-elect served as the president of the Edison Park Chamber of Commerce for six terms besides operating O’Connor’s Deli & Market and Unforgettable Edibles Catering.  During the campaign, she said her understanding of small business would help her bring development to the far northwest side.  That includes Edison Park, Oriole Park, O’Hare, Wildwood, Norwood Park and Edgebrook.

“As Alderman, I’ll actively fight to improve services—education, property and foreclosure relief, police, fire & safety, parks, streets & sanitation,” O’Connor said on her website.

O’Connor plans to combat the overcrowding and underfunding of schools by creating an advisory board of local parents and officials.  She opposes cutting the services of police officers and fire fighters, and is prepared to work with developers to beautify the ward.

Carol Lyons was one of the many local residents and supporters in attendance at Gavin’s election night celebration.

“They really have kept the ward up as far as making sure that things get done,” Lyons said.  “The only thing that has to be done now are the streets, because the pot holes are very bad.”

O’Connor reported receiving over $47,000 in contributions since Jan. 1, while Gavin trailed with $11,500, according to disclosure reports both candidates filed with the State Board of Elections.

With the results being so close, O’Connor had her supporters to thank for the win.  O’Connor was endorsed by the Chicago Sun-Times, the Chicago Tribune, AFSCME Council 31, and a long list of high-ranking unions and Chicagoans.

“I’ve known Mary O’Connor for many years, and I find her to be a very bright and articulate woman,” said 9th District Cook County Board Commissioner Peter Silvestri.

Silvestri is a Republican supporter of Gavin’s, however, has a repertoire with the alderman-elect as well.  With Ald. Doherty retiring and O’Connor taking over the ward office, Chicago City Council has lost its lone GOP member.

There were 11 candidates in the Feb. 22 election, with none receiving the 50.1 percent needed to outright win.  The two runoff candidates were separated by less than 5 percent in the Feb. race, with that margin narrowing to 2 percent in Tuesday’s runoff, according to the Board of Election Commissioners.

“We still live in the best ward in the city,” Maureen O’Brien said.

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