Re-election hinges on voters using their pens

Kate Ward and Kate Ward

In early February, Ald. Lionel Jean-Baptiste (2nd) found his campaign for re-election in a fix. The Evanston Election Board had kicked the alderman off the ballot after ruling that he did not fill out his petition for alderman correctly.

But Jean-Baptiste is not ready to give up yet.

“It has been my commitment to constituents and the city of Evanston to make it a safe and equitable city where the diversity reflects itself in the well-being of its members,” he said. “That’s kind of why I feel I can’t let go.”

Second Ward resident Robert Nierodzik filed a complaint to the Evanston Election Board charging that Jean-Baptiste failed to specify what position he was running for on his alderman petition. This prompted the board’s Feb. 11 decision to remove the alderman from the ballot. Jean-Baptiste said he was not discouraged by the board’s ruling.

“I want to continue to do as much aggressive campaigning to retain my position in the Second Ward,” he said. “There’s work to do. That’s why I didn’t fold up my tent with the ruling of the board.”

Instead Jean-Baptiste is campaigning as a write-in candidate for Second Ward alderman against Christopher Stewart. Though Jean-Baptiste’s name will be absent from the ballot, he said his chances for re-election are still favorable because he is telling constituents about the change.

Every piece of literature distributed by Jean-Baptiste labels him as a “write-in” candidate. He also sent out brochures featuring a replica of the ballot with instructions on how to write in a candidate.

“To go the extra step and write me in will not be difficult,” Jean-Baptiste said. “I believe people will.”

He said his past accomplishments within the community also will help his chances. He became involved in the Canal Park Neighbors Organization before the 2001 aldermanic election, focusing on mainstreaming troubled youth into society.

After his 2001 victory, when he captured 84 percent of the vote, he has remained vocal about helping Evanston youth. He also has worked on improving relations between the city and Northwestern, stressing the importance of creating a committee made up of Evanston residents, city representatives and university officials.

“It would ensure that we move forward together in a positive way instead of (continuing) the adversarial relationship that has existed over time,” Jean-Baptiste said. “Without such a process, we will remain adversarial. That’s not in the best interest of anyone.”

Jean-Baptiste said he also would like to create Radio Evanston, a low-frequency radio station that would reach all Evanston residents and inform them of any problems in the city.

The idea came after a gas emergency in the Sixth Ward fueled confusion among residents who felt they weren’t informed about the situation.

“(Sometimes) neighborhood A doesn’t know what is happening in neighborhood Y,” he said. “I want people to know what is going on in all the wards.”

William Jackson, an attorney for Bradley and Jackson and acquaintance of Jean-Baptiste, said he recognized the alderman’s dedication and ability to work closely with members of the community.

“I’ve always been impressed with his concern for constituents in his ward,” Jackson said. “He has a good grasp of what they need and works hard to try to achieve that.”

Jean-Baptiste said he is confident that Second Ward residents will reward his commitment to the city.

“They will continue to support me,” he said. “They’ll make the extra effort, just like I’ve made the extra effort for them.”

Reach Kate Ward at [email protected].