HYDE PARK — Political donations spiked for Ald. Sophia King’s campaign after her endorsement by former President Barack Obama, furthering her lead in campaign fundraising heading into the final weeks of the race for 4th Ward alderman.
King was appointed the interim alderman in April by Mayor Rahm Emanuel after Will Burns resigned and since then she has raised $196,380 to hold onto the seat in the Feb. 28 special election.
If nearly $200,000 sounds like a big sum for an abbreviated aldermanic race in an off election year, King’s campaign has said it needs more.
Before winning the endorsement of the Independent Voters of Illinois Independent Precinct Organization, King’s campaign said in the group’s questionnaire that it was budgeting $250,000 for the race.
King faces four challengers — Ebony Lucas, Gerald Scott McCarthy, Gregory Seal Livingston and Marcellus Moore Jr. — but has held a widening lead in fundraising thanks in part to her well-to-do neighbors in Kenwood.
King started fundraising in March, pulling in $29,800 in the first month, with many sizable donations from her Kenwood neighbors.
Livingston also started fundraising in March and Lucas followed shortly after in May, but none has been able to keep up with King as big name political endorsements like U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin lined up behind the political newcomer.
According to state records, King raised $33,900 in the first week after her biggest endorsement from friend Barack Obama, who endorsed her in his first act after leaving office on Jan. 30.
King has raised $52,900 since the beginning of the year, a sizeable addition to the $143,480 she raised last year.
Recent donations since the Obama endorsement include $1,000 from Chicago Park District Board President Jesse Ruiz, who works with King’s husband, Alan King, at law firm Drinker, Biddle and Reath. King’s Kenwood neighbors United Airlines General Counsel and neighbor Brett Hart and his wife gave a combined $5,400, and Dr. Gregory Primus, a retired Chicago Bears player and now a surgeon at the University of Chicago, gave $1,000.
She has now raised twice as much as all of the other candidates combined, leaving them scrambling to catch up or shift to a thriftier strategy. Lucas is the closest in fundraising, raising $46,083 so far this election cycle, according to state records.
The fundraising has not helped King in the ongoing candidates’ forums, where all five candidates are fighting to stake out their own positions in the race while also figuring out how to campaign for alderman for the first time.
But the money has splashed King’s name around the ward, which stretches from Hyde Park to the Loop, paying for yard signs and mailers.
This level of fundraising could be becoming par for the course in the 4th Ward.
Will Burns, who won his second term as alderman in February 2015, a year before announcing he would resign for a job at AirBnB, needed considerably more than $250,000 to hold onto the seat in a relatively mild election year for the ward.
Burns ended the election and avoided a runoff with 55 percent of the vote, winning a majority over his two contenders in all but one of the ward’s 38 precincts.
In the final two months before the election, Burns spent more then $300,000 on his campaign, including more than $98,000 for mailings and field work from political consultants and nearly $20,000 on polling.
The current race has not yet reached that level of expense, but the candidates have spent a combined $114,681 before January, when the race first started to heat up after the final ballot was set on Dec. 29.