KENWOOD — Ald. Sophia King (4th) has shown a willingness to break from Mayor Rahm Emanuel in controversial votes in City Council, but remains untested on the toughest issues facing the city, according to the authors of a new University of Illinois at Chicago report on King’s voting record.
Still, for the most part she has sided with Rahm, said the report's lead author, Dick Simpson, a former alderman and now political science professor at UIC. He said Friday that King’s voting record is in line with other members of the Progressive Caucus in the council.
“It looks like she votes a little more with the administration more often than other members of the caucus,” Simpson said.
King was appointed in February by Emanuel to take over the seat vacated by mayoral ally Will Burns and started casting her first votes in City Council in April.
Joanna Klonsky, a spokeswoman for King's campaign, said King's voting record shows she is independent and looks out for her ward.
"As a member of the Progressive Reform Caucus, Ald. King is proud to have built a strong, independent, progressive-minded voting record in her short time in office," Klonsky said. "She approaches every individual vote with one question in mind — what is best for the constituents of the 4th Ward."
Alderman have been divided on votes 27 times since King joined the Council and King sided with the administration 85 percent of the time, according to the report.
Only 13 aldermen in the last year have sided with the administration less than 80 percent of the time and 28 aldermen have sided with Emanuel 90-100 percent of the time on divided votes.
“It’s important to hold alderman accountable for how they vote,” Simpson said. “[Voters] can decide whether they agree with her on the issues and the only issues that really counted were the divided votes.”
King joined other members of the Progressive and Black caucuses in September in voting against an O’Hare modernization ordinance, siding with colleagues claiming not enough of the airport’s contracts were going to minority-owned firms.
She also voted in December against lifting a ban on the sale of flavored and menthol tobacco near elementary and middle schools.
Both ordinances passed despite King and other aldermen’s opposition.
Simpson said those and other issues faced by the Council while King has been a member have been relatively mild compared to the decisions her predecessors faced.
He said the budget vote this year was remarkably uncontentious compared to previous years and King has not faced difficult votes on taxes, police, schools and other major issues facing the city.
“It depends a lot on what’s going on at the time,” Simpson said.
He said that even Leon Despres, the former 5th Ward alderman revered on the south lakefront for his independence in the council, was largely voting in line with Mayor Richard J. Daley during his first term as alderman in 1955.
“Usually there’s a breaking point,” Simpson said.
Faced with difficult votes on raising property taxes, holding police accountable and closing schools, King’s immediate predecessor Will Burns voted with the administration more than 90 percent of the time on divided votes. In his last year in office he voted with the mayor on all divided votes, according to voting reports from previous years.
Toni Preckwinkle, who served as 4th Ward alderman for 19 years and still controls much of the ward’s political organizations, was more of a moderate progressive, according to Simpson.
On contentious votes about releasing the names of police officers accused of wrongdoing, privatizing major parts of the city’s infrastructure and difficult budgets, Preckwinkle was more willing to break with then-Mayor Richard M. Daley, according to Simpson. He said she voted against the mayor on approximately 20-30 percent of divided votes.
Simpson said King’s voting record is just one facet that should be considered by voters. He said it tells voters little about King’s ability to provide services for the ward and how she will vote when there is conflict between the ward more broadly and the more wealthy constituents of Kenwood, who King counts as personal friends and are contributing heavily to her campaign.
King is currently running her first campaign for 4th Ward alderman against four challengers, Marcellus Moore Jr., Gerald Scott McCarthy, Ebony Lucas and Gergory Seal Livingston.
The special election is on Feb. 28.