Unofficial results from Evanston’s primary election held Feb. 23 show former state Sen. Daniel Biss as the next mayor and Stephanie Mendoza as the new city clerk. The election results also project a tight race for the two aldermanic elections in wards 4 and 8 and the loss of both wards’ incumbents.
Primary elections are held if candidates running for mayoral election exceed the threshold of two, while city clerk and aldermanic races have a primary threshold of four. The Feb. 23 elections included primaries for mayor, city clerk and aldermen of the 4th and 8th ward. All registered Evanston citizens were eligible to vote for mayor and city clerk, while only residents of the 4th and 8th wards could vote in their respective aldermanic elections.
The unofficial results from the primary elections were released by Cook County Clerk’s office shortly after polls closed and are in the process of being updated.
Polling place technician and Weinberg senior Caroline Webster said she saw few lines throughout the day at Parkes Hall, where most students that register with south campus addresses vote. This was probably because some citizens registered and voted during the early voting period that began Feb. 8 or voted by mail, Webster said.
Webster also said local elections, like the primary, are typically lower profile than national or state-level elections among Northwestern students. She says in comparison to last November’s elections, she barely saw voting campaigns among the student body.
Biss declared victory the night of the election after receiving more than 73% of the votes, significantly exceeding the 50% of votes needed to forgo general elections. He defeated candidates Lori Keenan, an Evanston small business owner and community activist, and Sebastian Nalls, a Purdue University student from Evanston with experience working in the city’s Parks and Recreation Department. Biss served as an Illinois state representative for two years and a state senator for six years until he ran in the 2018 gubernatorial election, where he lost to current Governor J. B. Pritzker.
Throughout his campaign, Biss ran on a platform of a “bold, progressive city government.” He laid out specific policies on issues of public safety regarding policing, affordable housing, climate and sustainability, racial equity, government transparency and COVID-19 recovery.
Northwestern’s Executive Director of Neighborhood and Community Relations Dave Davis said he looks forward to working with Biss. University leaders, including Davis, have had a great working relationship with Biss for several years in the state senate, he said.
City Clerk Election
Mendoza received over 76% of the votes and was the only City Clerk candidate on the ballot, though six other residents declared themselves as write-in candidates. The votes of the six individual write-in candidates have not been released by the county clerk’s office.
In City Clerk races, the two candidates who’ve secured the most votes will face off in the general election, no matter what percentage of the vote they receive in the primary. Mendoza is expected to be joined by another write-in candidate in the general election.
The unofficial results of the aldermanic races in the 4th and 8th wards saw both incumbents failing to secure enough votes to appear in the general election.
Incumbent Ald. Donald Wilson of the 4th Ward is currently in third place with 29% of the vote, behind candidates Jonathan Nieuwsma and Diane Goldring, who received 38% and 32% respectively. Both Nieuwsma, a renewable energy consultant, and Goldring, a director of client support, are running for the first time for elective office. Important issues for the 4th Ward include the cost of the Robert Crown Community Center, government transparency & accountability and affordable housing.
In the 8th Ward, City Clerk Devon Malcolm Reid and Ridgeville Park District Commissioner Matthew Marley Mitchell are projected to advance to the general elections with 39% and 30% of the vote respectively. Incumbent Ald. Ann Rainey (8th), who has served as alderman for 34 years, is currently in third with 28% of the vote. Important issues for the 8th Ward include sustainability, racial equity, policing and economic recovery from COVID-19.
The University is excited to work with the new city council that’ll emerge after the general election, Davis said. In particular, one of the key issues of the election cycle, racial equity, aligns with Northwestern’s recent commitment toward social justice, which provides them with an opportunity for partnership on significant programs, Davis added. Another key issue focuses on the role of the university in Evanston.
“[A change in leadership] is a great opportunity for us to really envision what our relationship should be and partnership with the city of Evanston could be,” Davis said. “Hopefully this will allow us to work together in a way so that we can emerge from this moment a stronger, more economically viable community.”
The general elections will be held April 6 and will include elections for all Evanston City Council members except for the mayor. The new City Council, which includes the Mayor, City Clerk and nine Aldermen, will be sworn in May 11.