Rahm Emanuel

40th Ward Election: O'Connor Loses to Newcomer Vasquez

Newcomer Andre Vasquez defeated incumbent Ald. Pat O'Connor, the city's second longest-serving alderman

Chicago's second longest-serving alderman is out in the 40th Ward on the city's Far North Side. 

Newcomer Andre Vasquez defeated incumbent Ald. Pat O'Connor, unofficial election results showed Tuesday night. Vasquez won 54 percent of the vote, earning 1,059 more votes than O'Connor, with 100 percent of precincts reporting.

The results were a stunning blow to O'Connor, who has served as Mayor Rahm Emanuel's floor leader and succeeded Ald. Ed Burke as chair of the powerful City Council Committee on Finance when Burke was forced out amid a corruption charge.

O'Connor was first elected in 1983 and, along with Burke, was one of the last two remaining City Council members who were part of the "Vrdolyak 29," a majority-white group of aldermen who stymied the agenda of Mayor Harold Washington, Chicago's first black mayor, in the 1980s.

O'Connor had previously floated the possibility of retiring but was instead swept out of office by Vasquez, a Democratic Socialist who has said he got seriously involved in politics when he backed Sen. Bernie Sanders for president in the 2016 Democratic primary. 

Currently working as a senior manager for AT&T, Vasquez now chairs the North Chapter of Reclaim Chicago and was endorsed by several progressive organizations and officials, as well as unions like the Chicago Teachers Union, Service Employees International Union Local 73, and more.

The race did see some controversy, as Vasquez was a rapper under the stage name "Prime" in the late 1990s and early 2000s. O'Connor's campaign unveiled a website ahead of the runoff, documenting Vasquez's history of misogynistic and homophobic remarks made in hip-hop forums or in his lyrics.

Vasquez said in a statement that he's "not proud" of who he was when he made this comments, between 2001 and 2010, but that "some people grow and learn and change."

He also pointed to a racial controversy surrounding O'Connor, highlighting his opponent's remarks at an October forum with all five original candidates, in which O'Connor attacked one of his challengers, Ugo Okere, for a fundraising invitation that advertised "building Nigerian political power."

O'Connor's criticisms, in part saying the flier "doesn't talk about community," drew boos from the crowd and widespread condemnation from the candidates as well as the forum moderator, who later tweeted that O'Connor was "a racist troll."

Vasquez's victory over O'Connor signifies an upheaval of the old guard, leaving another vacancy at the head of the Finance Committee. This is especially noteworthy as Mayor-elect Lori Lightfoot, who has never held elected office before, takes the reins in May facing several challenges - particularly the city's financial woes - with a City Council that will look very different and less experienced from years past.  

The 40th Ward includes parts of the city's West Ridge, Andersonville, Bowmanville, Ravenswood and Edgewater neighborhoods.

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