Did Evanston voters send a message on Tuesday?


Is there a political machine that controls Evanston Elections? Some have proclaimed that every winning candidate had the backing of Jan Schakowsky and Julie Hamos. Similar lists of elected or former elected officials appeared on multiple candidate support lists and brochures. Many winners did have such support.

But, maybe there was also a message that can be found in the campaign issues…. and the positions of the candidates ...that would explain the outcome.

One issue that has been prominent in candidate forums and statements is the recent approval of the 708 Church St project. It has been viewed by many as an example of development out of control.

The following election winners (with votes) took issue with the 708 project or the downtown "central core" district standards passed to support that project in their campaign statements:

Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl (6,347)
1st Ward Judy Fiske (649)
4th Ward Donald Wilson (560)
6th Ward Mark Tendam (861)
7th Ward Jane Grover (918)
9th Ward Coleen Burrus (713)

Only one alderman who approved the project won reelection is a contested race:

5th Ward Dolores Holmes (473)

Three aldermen who ran unopposed had already voted on the project:

2nd Ward Lionel Jean-Baptiste – Approved (553)
4the Ward Melissa Wynn – Opposed (900)
8th Ward Ann Rainey – Approved (540)

In all, approximately 20,000 votes were cast for candidates who had expressed an opinion on the project. Roughly 15,000 or 75% of those votes were for candidates who took issue with the tower and/or extra-tall, extra-dense development on the Fountain Square block. Perhaps there is a message here, one that is consistent with what a large majority of residents have been saying in public forums all along. And if there is a silent majority that supports the project it clearly was not evident at the polls.

Regarding that machine idea, it is not wholly supported by the facts. Current 1st Ward Alderman Cheryl Wollin had the backing of essentially the same list of local officials who backed Colleen Burrus and Mark Tendam (see brochure exerpt pictured here). Burrus and Tendam opposed the Tower and won.  If there is a machine, why couldn't it carry Tower supporter Wollin?


There were no ward races where development was a straight-up issue. The mayoral race covered a broad range of issues. But the 1st ward may have been different. Cheryl Wollin voted for the 708 Church St. tower project. Her opponent, Judy Fiske, made responsible development a campaign issue. In 2005 when the 708 project was not an issue Wollin won over Fiske on a close vote. This time Fiske won handily with 63% of the vote. Non-voting NU students made up the difference. For the residents who voted this Tuesday there is evidence that a key issue was downtown development.