14th Ward Election: Burke Avoids Runoff Against 2 Opponents

on Feb27
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2019-02-27 01:58:10

Ald. Ed Burke, facing a federal charge of attempted extortion, appeared to defeat two opponents outright to win re-election as 14th Ward alderman Tuesday night.

Burke, the longest-serving alderman in Chicago history, collected 54.6 percent of the vote with 94 percent of precincts reporting as of 10 p.m., according to the Chicago Board of Elections. 

The weeks before Election Day – in which Burke was charged with alleged corruption – appeared to set the stage for his toughest electoral battle yet, but that initial vote total looked like enough to stave off even a runoff election. 

He faced two opponents in the predominantly Hispanic ward: Jaime Guzman and Tanya Patino, who both have ties to Rep. Jesus “Chuy” Garcia. Guzman was a legislative analyst for Garcia when the congressman was a Cook County commissioner and has since worked at the Pilsen Law Center. Patino is a civil engineer and nabbed the endorsement of Garcia – who called for special monitors for the 14th Ward election, claiming that Burke flouted rules against electioneering at a polling place back in November.

Patino earned 29.3 percent of the vote, while Guzman garnered 16.1 percent, results showed. The results are not official, as vote-by-mail ballots postmarked by Election Day may continue to be counted through March 12.  

Still, Burke appeared to win a 13th term Tuesday night, despite being charged with attempted extortion for “corruptly soliciting business” for his law firm, federal authorities allege. Burke was indicted on Jan. 3, weeks after federal agents conducted raids at his 14th Ward office and his finance committee suite on Nov. 29, and then again at City Hall on Dec. 13.

The unsealed complaint revealed that authorities claim Burke was using his official position in an attempt to stymie renovations on a restaurant in his 14th Ward – later identified as the Burger King near the scene of the high-profile police shooting of Laquan McDonald – in an alleged effort to direct the company’s business to his own law firm for personal gain. 

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Burke runs a law firm specializing in property tax appeals, and had previously worked for President Donald Trump on lowering taxes for his namesake Chicago tower. His firm, Klafter & Burke, stopped representing Trump earlier this year. Burke, who first took office in 1969, has previously been subject to scrutiny over potential conflicts of interest, as well as federal investigations over allegations of ghost payrolling. With regard to the January charge of corruption, as he has in the past, Burke has repeatedly denied all allegations of wrongdoing. 

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Burke has long been arguably the most powerful alderman in the city, as chair of the Chicago City Council Committee on Finance, though he resigned from that position after he was indicted. Still, he is far and away the most prolific fundraiser on City Council, with more than $12.2 million in his war chest, across three campaign committees, as of the most recent reporting period ending on Dec. 31. 

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That cash was seemingly enough to topple both opponents without even necessitating a runoff election. Next up for Burke? Prosecutors will likely look to seek an indictment from a grand jury in May, days before he’s sworn in to yet another term as alderman. 

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