AUBURN GRESHAM — Challenger Derrick Curtis defeated incumbent Ald. Lona Lane to win the 18th Ward election Tuesday in what supporters are calling a "blowout" victory.
The most recent poll data shows Curtis with 67.4 percent of the vote (7,180), while Lane received 3,469 votes, or 36.2 percent. According to Scott Biszewski, campaign manager for Curtis, the alderman-to-be defeated Lane in all 50 precincts.
"The hard work has paid off; now time to get to work," Biszewski said to a room full of joyful Curtis supporters.
In an emotional victory speech and emblazoned with a button reading "Lane Closed April 7", Curtis vigorously thanked his volunteers and the ward's residents.
"Wow, this is amazing," Curtis said. "I owe it all to you, my heart is filled. We have planted our seeds, we watered it, and now our harvest has come."
During his speech, Curtis talked about his priority of restoring his ward to "how it used to be" eight years ago, before Lane took office. Among his plans are to ensure the area is safe for children to play, bringing back economic development and providing support to community-based organizations.
First thing he plans to do as alderman? Thank each and every voter, he said, as well as gaining the support of those who didn't.
As Curtis told those in reception that it was "now time to heal the ward," the crowd erupted in unison, cheering "the Lane has closed!"
A voter present at Curtis' reception, who asked to remain anonymous because she used to work for Lane, said although she voted for Curtis, she knows her ward's residents will be looking to new leadership to help mend old problems.
"I'm just hoping the people are not looking to Curtis to be the solution to all our problems," she said. "[With Lane] I didn't see the drive and motivation. It's gonna take a lot of working together, but I think we can do it."
Another volunteer and supporter, Reace Fos, described Curtis as "part of the fabric of the 18th Ward," and someone he said he believed residents could place their trust in.
Curtis finished the Feb. 24 election with just 61 more votes than Lane. But because neither won more than 50 percent of the votes — 30.4 percent for Curtis to 29.9 percent for Lane — they moved on to the runoff.
Lane and Curtis are longtime friends, but the race became somewhat contentious after Lane's participation in re-election events waned.
Since the first round of voting, Lane has been absent from the campaign trail. She consistently failed to show up for appearances or participate in many debates during the campaign, most recently when she was a no-show at a late-March forum with Curtis at Greater Walters AME Zion Church, 8422 S. Damen Ave.
When asked after his win if he believed Lane's absence during the election played a role in the final results, Curtis said that although Lane may not have had a heavy presence, he will.
“She wasn’t accessible to the people, I’m gonna be that accessible person," Curtis said. "I’m looking to bring the people together and be rebuilding the community.”
Lane defended her series of absences on Twitter, saying, "I am usually in the 18th Ward Service Office, riding the ward or City Hall."
In 2006, Lane made history by becoming both the first woman and first African-American to serve as alderman in the 18th Ward after being appointed by then-Mayor Richard M. Daley.
In addition to serving as a superintendent in the Department of Streets and Sanitation, Curtis also has worked with the Cook County Sheriff's Office.
Lane or her representatives could not be reached for comment.
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