UPTOWN — Incumbent Ald. James Cappleman defeated challenger Amy Crawford to keep his 46th Ward seat in Tuesday's runoff.
With 90 percent of the precincts reporting, Cappleman won 53.68 percent of the votes to Crawford's 46.32, according to unofficial election results.
"Back in 2011, I made a lot of promises and I delivered on them," Cappleman said to a crowd of his supporters at Uptown Underground, 4707 N. Broadway, after thanking family members and others who worked for his campaign.
"One thing I learned when I first ran for alderman ... the problem was I wasn't dreaming big enough," he said. "The Wilson 'L' is coming in, now we have to focus on Uptown Theatre."
Mina Bloom says it was an emotional concession from Crawford:
The alderman said he's "very focused" on bringing the Uptown Theatre back to life. It's been vacant since 1981 due to flooding — and needs major renovations. Rehabbing the theater is slated to cost as much as $70 million. A $10 million state grant that was supposed to go toward renovating the theater is now on hold due to Gov. Bruce Rauner's proposed budget cuts.
As for public safety, Cappleman said "ten years ago, we had five different gangs and today it's two and the numbers are dwindling. That's very good."
"We're going to team up to see what we can do to come together and make this community safer," the alderman said. "I'm so thankful for the work you did. Hang on to your seats."
There were hardly any empty seats in the main stage area of the Uptown Underground, a retro-themed burlesque venue that officially joined the neighborhood in February.
Resident Gerard Panzica, 62, said the ward "has never been in better shape" than with Cappleman at the helm.
"This area — before James — was the pits," Panzica said, who has lived in Uptown for 25 years. "Now it's had a renaissance."
When asked for examples, he pointed to new businesses in the ward and less crime.
Managing partner at LKH management, Sean Kotwa, 30, agreed, saying he's noticed a decrease in crime in the neighborhood under Cappleman's leadership.
"I'm very pleased with the work he's done and I'm looking forward to more positive change," said Kotwa.
A newcomer to the ward, Melissa Donis, said she likes Cappleman on a personal level.
"I've never met a politician as kind as he is," Donis said. "When I moved here nine months ago, people would say that he is someone who will help you with whatever you're going through."
She said he's "encouraged me to keep going" by helping her finding a job and connecting her with job opportunities.
Meanwhile, Crawford shed tears while conceding to a crowd of her supporters and family members at the Uptown Lounge, 1136 W. Lawrence Ave., which is right around the corner from Uptown Underground.
"Even though it was going to be long odds, I thought it was a battle worth having to show that there was a middle way," said Crawford, adding that the other two candidates represented the far left and the far right ends of the political spectrum.
"I'm crying because I'm really moved by the experience, I'm not sad because we lost."
In addition to thanking supporters and her campaign workers, she said "it's been a privilege to get to know the voters in the community."
Moving forward, Crawford urged her supporters to "help hold [Cappleman] accountable and "build leadership around him."
"Let's put this energy to good use," she said.
Earlier Tuesday, a 46th ward polling place was among five in the city to open late, which meant it stayed open an hour later than planned. Election Judge Dimitrios Dixon blamed a broken outlet, which is needed for electronic machines, for the delay.
Election judges at various polling places also told DNAinfo Chicago that voter turnout seemed higher than February's municipal election.
In the lead-up to the runoff election, Cappleman and Crawford shared opposing visions for the ward. Issues including whether to add more affordable housing, how to decrease violent crime and increase economic development and how to provide assistance for the ward's homeless took center stage at debates.
Cappleman said the ward has improved since he took office. Under his leadership, he said, the ward has seen more economic development and a "profound decrease" in gangs and police activity. But Crawford has said the opposite is true: A lack of development and an increase in violence are the exact reasons she decided to run, she told DNAinfo Chicago.
Since the race went to a runoff, Crawford raised almost $30,000 more than the incumbent alderman, but it was mostly from a $50,000 loan she donated to her own campaign.
The 46th Ward includes Uptown, Lakeview, Buena Park and Sheridan Park.
In the municipal election Feb. 24, Cappleman won 46.76 percent of the votes to Crawford's 37.66 percent.
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