CHICAGO — Challenger Milagros "Milly" Santiago is leading the 31st Ward race with 52.9 percent of the vote in early returns.
Incumbent Ald. Regner "Ray" Suarez trails with 47.1 percent of the total 4,752 ballots cast.
After finishing ahead of two other challengers during the Feb. 24 election, Santiago won the right to face off against longtime alderman Suarez in Tuesday's 31st Ward runoff election.
Suarez, the city's vice-mayor, has cited job creation and a decrease in crime as highlights of his two decades as alderman.
Suarez told the Sun-Times in January he was against a property tax increase but would like to examine TIF reform, a commuter tax or taxes on large financial transactions. He also noted his "proven track record" of bringing business to the ward, including 2,200 new jobs, and promised to require that new employers hire more ward residents.
Santiago, a former reporter who also worked for the governor's office, has accused Suarez of soliciting campaign contributions from local businesses in exchange for necessary permits or other assistance. Santiago pledged to reduce foreclosures, advocate for senior citizens and strengthen crime prevention efforts with more neighborhood watch resources and a better understanding of gang recruitment.
Suarez, a Vietnam War veteran, was first elected to lead the Northwest Side ward in 1991. The 31st Ward includes parts of Hermosa, Belmont Cragin, Portage Park and Logan Square.
In previous forums and debates, Santiago has pledged to defend the middle class against bad landlords, while Suarez called for more affordable housing.
During the Feb. 24 election, none of the four candidates for the 31st Ward received more than 50 percent of the total 5,930 votes. Suarez, who received 48 percent of the votes, and Santiago, who received 37 percent, advanced to Tuesday's election.
Knocked out of the race were Sean C. Starr, with 10 percent of the votes, and Irma Cornier, who received 5 percent.
For more election coverage, listen to DNAinfo Radio here: