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Ald. Burns' Resignation Prompts Special Election in February 2017

By Sam Cholke | February 1, 2016 4:23pm | Updated on February 3, 2016 10:57am
 The resignation of Ald. Will Burns (4th) has prompted a special election for his replacement in February 2017, denying the mayor the chance to pick his successor until the next general election.
The resignation of Ald. Will Burns (4th) has prompted a special election for his replacement in February 2017, denying the mayor the chance to pick his successor until the next general election.
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DNAinfo/Ted Cox (File)

HYDE PARK — Ald. Will Burns' sudden resignation Monday has denied Mayor Rahm Emanuel the chance to pick the new long-term alderman of the 4th Ward and forced a special election in February 2017.

On Monday, the mayor’s office announced that Burns had submitted his resignation and the mayor would start the process of looking at candidates to appoint as interim alderman.

If Burns had waited until October to resign, Emanuel would have been able to select whom the 4th Ward’s alderman would be until the next general election in 2019, according to Jim Allen, a spokesman for the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners.

Because Burns’ resignation happened so close to his re-election to office last February, a special election will be held on Feb. 28, 2017, with a run-off election to be held on April 4, 2017, if no candidate receives more than 50 percent of the votes.

Early reports have said Burns will step down on March 1, which would start the 60-day clock ticking for Emanuel to name an interim alderman.

The special election makes Burns’ sudden exit from politics for a senior advisor job at AirBnB even more perplexing. Burns, often a political ally of the mayor, has diminished Emanuel’s influence in picking the future leadership of the ward by resigning now instead of in October.

Burns was not available to comment and his office referred all questions to AirBnB.

He issued a statement late Monday afternoon listing several of his accomplishments while in office, including an increase in the minimum wage and strengthening requirements on developers to include affordable housing.

"I can look back at the last five years and see the change that we have created together, and I believe our momentum will continue in the future," Burns said.

He said his office was able to add "hundreds of new units of housing and thousands of square feet of new retail, and improved infrastructure."

"We have created hundreds of construction and permanent jobs for the  people who live here," Burns said. "And this progress has bolstered the hopes that brought us to the mid-South Side and the South Loop — that we can live in safe and walkable neighborhoods with great amenities, parks and schools."

Burns’ colleagues praised him as smart and focused, but said they were also surprised by his resignation and unclear of what motivated the exit from aldermanic politics.

“Will’s a very private person and I don’t know what he’s working on there inside his head,” said Ald. Pat Dowell (3rd), who has frequently collaborated with Burns on projects across the boundaries of their neighboring wards.

She said didn’t expect Burns to leave politics right away and said she thinks he will continue to help long-time ally Christian Mitchell in his re-election campaign for Burns’ former 26th District state representative seat.

Burns may still harbor dreams of being elected a congressman, a goal several politicians said he had.

“Just because you’ve stepped away from what you’re doing clearly doesn’t mean you can’t come back — the mayor did it,” said state Sen. Kwame Raoul, referencing Emanuel’s two-year stint in investment banking before returning to politics.

Raoul and others said Emanuel should consult Toni Preckwinkle, the president of the Cook County Board of Commissioners and who still leads many of the 4th Ward’s political organizations, when looking for a replacement.

Patrick Corcoran, a spokesman for the Office of the City Clerk, said Burns has not yet officially submitted his resignation.

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