The Chicago News Cooperative analyzed all the aldermanic runoffs since 1987 and found that incumbency is not a reliable predictor of success. Of the 42 alderman forced to face the voters a second time, only 22 won -- a 52 percent success rate.
Many incumbents who came close to winning a majority and received significantly more votes than their closest challenger in the first round have found it difficult to capture the support needed to clinch victory in runoff voting. Leonard DeVille, the 21st Ward alderman in 2003, won almost 49 percent of the vote in the first round that year but fell in the runoff to Howard Brookins Jr.
The runoffs often play out in dramatically different fashion than the first round. In 1987 in the 21st Ward, Jesse Evans finished second in a 13-candidate field with just 9.3 percent of the vote, far behind incumbent Niles Sherman, who had almost 45 percent. Yet Evans won the runoff by 14 votes.
This makes sense, because aldermen who fail to win in the first round have usually teed off or disappointed more than half of their constituents. The challenger just has to unite these dissidents to win.
Earlier this year, Ward Room produced a list of the five most vulnerable aldermen. Four of them -- Sharon Denise Dixon, Bernard Stone, John Rice and Willie Cochran -- are on the ballot today. So here’s a ranking of the aldermen most likely to lose.
1. Sharon Denise Dixon, 24th: Got only 19.5 percent of the vote in the first round, running against former Ald. Michael Chandler.
2. Berny Stone, 50th: Called before the state board of elections for funneling money to a secret group attacking his opponent. Opposed by every politician on the North Side.
3. John Rice, 36th: Rice was appointed after serving as previous Ald. William J.P. Banks’s driver. Opponent Nicholas Sposato, a Chicago firefighter, has gotten a lot of good press.
4. Willie Cochran, 20th: Running against a Grammy-winner rapper -- Che “Rhymefest” Smith -- guarantees your opponent gets more publicity. Countering with ads on 92.3.
5. Freddrenna Lyle, 6th: Opponent Roderick Sawyer has a big name -- his father was Mayor Eugene Sawyer. Ward is looking run down.
6. Danny Solis, 25th: Challenger Cuauhtemoc Morfin has already forced Solis to reverse his opposition to the Clean Power Ordinance.
7. Latasha Thomas, 17th: Rahm Emanuel campaigned alongside Thomas on Saturday, one of only two candidates he’s given his personal assistance.
8. Toni Foulkes, 15th: The 15th Ward is a distressed food desert, but challenger Ray Lopez is a four-year resident, and a Latino in a black ward.
9. Timothy Cullerton, 38th: Appointee Cullerton’s family first held this seat in 1871. Four more years!
10. JoAnn Thompson, 16th: Thompson was lucky enough to draw two-time runoff loser Hal Baskin as an opponent.