Morton kickoff attracts prominent supporters

Breanne Gilpatrick

More than 100 political figures, business leaders and Evanston residents ventured through the rain Sunday to show support for Mayor Lorraine H. Morton’s re-election campaign.

In her speech, Morton talked about all the changes she had seen in her time as mayor.

“It was 12 years ago that I spoke to you about a new future for Evanston,” Morton said. “I had a feeling that there was a real concern for the City of Evanston. In the last 12 years the city has taken bold initiatives.”

She said the city had seen major development since she was elected, but needs to take a planned approach to the future. And she said she wanted to make the city more fiscally responsible.

A line of supporters waiting to chat kept Morton from even being able to make it off the stage for almost an hour after her speech. Morton said she decided to send out an open invitation because she wanted her kickoff to be an inclusive event.

“It was just excellent in so many ways to see so many people so happy to see each other,” Morton said after her speech. “The campaign provides us the opportunity to bring the entire community together.”

The kickoff at the Hotel Orrington’s Grand Ballroom, 1710 Orrington Ave., drew several aldermen and aldermanic candidates, including Alds. Lionel Jean-Baptiste (2nd), Edmund Moran (6th) and Elizabeth Tisdahl (7th), First Ward candidate Cheryl Wollin, Fifth Ward candidate Delores Holmes, and Ninth Ward candidates Anjana Hansen and Mimi Peterson.

Evanston/Skokie School District 65 school board members Jonathan Baum and Hecky Powell and District 65 candidate and Evanston Chamber of Commerce board member Dick Peach also attended the event. Ryan Garton, who was removed from the ballot as a Fourth Ward candidate Thursday, also was present at the kickoff.

Cook County Commissioner Larry Suffredin said he, U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky, State Rep. Julie Hamos and State Sen. Jeff Schoenberg — all Democrats representing Evanston — are supporting Morton. For many people in Evanston it is “probably the easiest decision anyone has had to make,” Suffredin said.

“We’ve all had a very positive working relationship to improve the quality of life for our mutual constituents,” Suffredin said. “I met her when she was the principal of my son’s junior high and in a way she’s the principal of the entire community.”

Suffredin, Schakowsky and Schoenberg all spoke at Morton’s kickoff. Former Evanston Mayor Jay Lytle also spoke, urging supporters to help fund Morton’s campaign. Lytle, who was elected mayor in 1977, appointed Morton as Fifth Ward alderman in the early 1980s.

Morton is facing competition in this year’s race from Evanston lawyer Peter Godwin. It’s the first time she has had competition since she was elected in 1993.

But more than just the big names in Evanston came out to support Morton. Others, such as James Belcher, were there to support the “Mrs. Morton” he remembers from Foster Elementary School, which closed its doors in the late 1970s.

“Whether you had her as a teacher or not, she was the teacher you wanted to have,” said Belcher, who no longer lives in Evanston but is supporting Morton’s campaign. “That was the way she was. Everyone wanted to be in Mrs. Morton’s class.”

Bob Barr, a former Cook County Republican leader, said Morton has bipartisan support.

“She’s not a partisan,” Barr said. “I can’t tell you what her politics are. She has just concentrated on being a good mayor, so the community has really come together to support her.”

Elizabeth Brasher, Morton’s daughter and campaign manager, said she was thrilled to see so many people attend the event.

“As I look out over this room, I see so many people I have seen over my lifetime,” Brasher said addressing the crowd. “I wear two hats — campaign manager and daughter. And actually, as I stand here today it’s more daughter. And it warms my heart to stand here and see so many people come out and support mom.”

Morton’s kickoff also was a chance for many people to see the Hotel Orrington for the first time since its renovations. But Ellen Newcomer, a campaign committee member for Morton, said she remembers Morton’s first campaign kickoff in 1993, because Newcomer hosted it at her house.

The event moved to the Hotel Orrington, then called the Omni Orrington, when Morton was elected mayor.

“It’s lovely,” Newcomer said. “Lorraine’s a classy lady, so she needs a classy venue.”

But First Ward aldermanic candidate Wollin, who served on the Evanston City Council with Morton and ran against her in the mayoral primaries in 1993, said some things about the event haven’t changed.

“It’s the same balloons and the same spirit,” said Wollin, who was an eighth grade teacher at Haven Middle School, 2417 Prairie Ave., when Morton was principal at the school. “And I think people have been very loyal to her.”

Reach Breanne Gilpatrick at [email protected].