ENGLEWOOD — Ald. Toni Foulkes (15th), whose ward includes portions of Englewood, said she will run for alderman in the neighboring 16th Ward now that the city's recent aldermanic remap has changed the face of her ward.
In an interview Monday with DNAinfo Chicago, Foulkes explained that she would not seek election in the 16th Ward because, after the City Council remap that takes effect next year, the 15th Ward would no longer be predominantly black.
The redrawn ward soon will include the Brighton Park and Back of The Yards neighborhoods, which are both heavily Hispanic.
"These neighborhoods [Back of The Yards and Brighton Park] are my friends, but Englewood is my family. Englewood is the community I was elected to represent in 2007, and I will not abort my African-American community," Foulkes said.
Her decision means that in the city election next February, Foulkes will face off against Ald. JoAnn Thompson (16th), whose ward also includes portions of Englewood. Thompson was also first elected in 2007.
Thompson called Foulkes' decision to run against her, the sitting alderman, "very disappointing." Thompson, a former deputy Cook County sheriff, noted that Foulkes' home in the 6500 block of South Paulina Avenue would remain in the 15th Ward.
"Ald. Foulkes is not displaced by the ward remap. Her home would still be in the 15th Ward once the remap takes effect," Thompson said. "She lives in the 15th Ward, and I think she should run in her own ward."
Thompson added that Foulkes previously told her she was not going to run against her, and Foulkes confirmed that she did not originally plan to run against Thompson.
According to census data, Englewood has a population of 30,654, whose residents are 97 percent black, and West Englewood has a population of 35,505, whose residents are 96 percent black.
Foulkes and Thompson, who are both black, said they were not worried about splitting the black vote and possibly allowing a nonblack candidate to win.
"I am known in the community, and voters know where I stand on issues affecting them," Foulkes said.
Thompson said the majority of residents living in the 16th Ward were black "so the possibility of a nonblack candidate winning is very unlikely."
Aldermen Pat Dowell (3rd), Roderick Sawyer (6th), Latasha Thomas (17th) and Willie Cochran (20th), whose wards also run through Englewood, declined to comment.
The City Council's Black Caucus is endorsing Thompson for the 16th Ward, said its chairman, Ald. Howard Brookins (21st).
"The caucus agreed to support all incumbents, and Thompson is the incumbent for the 16th Ward. I am sad to hear that a [caucus] member will run against another member. It gives the perception that as a caucus we are not necessarily together," Brookins said.
Brookins said his caucus thought Foulkes should stay put.
"We feel that Ald. Foulkes would be re-elected if she were to run in her ward, and we would certainly provide any assistance to her to make sure that happens," he said.
Foulkes agreed: "Make no mistake about it, though, I have no doubt in my mind that I could win the 15th Ward."
Raymond Lopez, a Democratic committeeman for the 15th Ward, said he planned to run for Foulkes' seat next year "because we have had an absentee alderman for the past two years. Our constituents need the services and representation they deserve."
Foulkes denied being an absentee alderman and said after recently meeting with the 16th Ward Political Task force, she expects to receive an endorsement from the organization.
Hal Baskin, a spokesman for the 16th Ward task force, was unavailable for comment.
Officials of one Englewood organization, Sustainable Englewood Initiatives, said they were not surprised to see two popular aldermen vying for the 16th Ward, which includes Gage Park and Chicago Lawn.
"Historically, the 16th Ward has served as the heart and soul of Englewood. The battle for this is ward has forever been a bone of contention for residents and City Hall," said John Paul Jones, president of the nonprofit organization.
If Foulkes were elected, she would have to move to the 16th Ward before the next city election in 2019 under state law.
Thompson, who lives in the 5700 block of South Morgan Street, said she would campaign on her record of accomplishments as alderman and not participate in any mud-slinging.
"I have done a lot for the 16th Ward and my constituents, who I meet with every week, know this. I am excited about a Whole Foods store coming to the 16th Ward and the 300 units of new housing that will be completed by 2015," Thompson said. "I love helping people. That is my calling from God."
Foulkes said if she is not elected next year, she will pursue a career in business.
"I have always wanted to start my own business, and that is what I would do if I do not win," said Foulkes, who worked in the bakery department of a grocery store before becoming alderman. "A lot of the issues like better education facing the 15th Ward also exist in the 16th Ward, and I want to help change the minds of our people. After all, improving education helps move people out of poverty."