CHICAGO — Gilbert Villegas won the runoff election for the 36th Ward aldermanic seat Tuesday night.
"This was a clear message that the residents of the 36th Ward are independent voters, and they're not going to be fooled into electing someone that is part of the machine," Villegas said by phone shortly after being elected.
Villegas beat out challenger Omar Aquino.
With 90 percent of 30 precincts reporting about 9 p.m., Villegas had 56 percent of the vote with 4,032 votes, and challenger Omar Aquino had 44 percent of the totals with 3,195 votes.
Aquino and Villegas took the top two spots in the four-candidate race on Feb. 24 to replace Ald. Nicholas Sposato (36th) who made a successful run for the 38th Ward seat after the ward boundaries changed in the most recent remap.
"It's a very exciting night," said campaign manager Justin Heath. "What really paid off in the end was the troops on the ground, the volunteers. It's really an honor to work with all these wonderful folks."
The most important issues in the ward to address are public safety and economic development, Villegas said.
"I'm looking forward to getting to work and reprsenting the residents of the 36th Ward," he said.
Villegas is a former Marine who lives in Montclare. He serves as the secretary of the Illinois Legislative Latino Caucus Foundation, among other organizations, and is a strong supporter of small businesses, according to his website.
Aquino grew up on the Northwest Side and has worked for U.S. Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-8th) and as a legislative aide in the Illinois House of Representatives. He said crumbling infrastructure, schools and crime are major issues facing the ward, according to his website.
The race was marked by controversy, as canvassers for the two campaigns filed assault charges against each other in early March. In another incident, Villegas apologized and said he would retroactively pay an artist whose work was lifted and used in campaign mailers for the candidate.
For more election coverage, listen to DNAinfo Radio here: