Evanston residents, electees and organizers talk election results, future political action

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Daily file illustration by Cynthia Zhang

After April’s municipal elections, Evanston residents and electees said they look forward to future change in the city.

Nick Francis, Copy Chief

In the wake of Evanston’s election results getting finalized, organizers, electees and residents said they are looking forward to the potential for positive change under new local officials.

Candidates campaigned in the most crowded election cycle in decades, school board races featured a prominent push for racial equity and long-entrenched alderpeople were unseated. Many residents said it’s important not to throw in the towel after a long election cycle. Instead, the results can be a springboard for a new season of change.

Kristen White, a longtime resident and Evanston/Skokie School District 65 parent, said she believes the election of District 65 board members Soo La Kim, Elisabeth “Biz” Lindsay-Ryan, Joseph “Joey” Hailpern and Donna Wang Su will continue a vision of enacting anti-racist policies. Of the four, Wang Su is the only newcomer to the board.

“I do not take the victory for granted, of the school board candidates who are explicitly supporting and working towards racial equity,” White said. “Over the next couple of years, those of us who align with that vision need to be more engaged and understanding of what the school board is up to and how they’re advancing that mission.”

Kim, the assistant dean of graduate programs for Northwestern’s School of Professional Studies, secured reelection to the District 65 board and garnered the largest vote share of all candidates with about 17 percent. 

At an April 3 voting rally, Kim said there have been years of “inequity and inequitable outcomes” disproportionately affecting marginalized races and ethnicities. Kim was specifically referring to District 65. As a board member, she said she hopes to bring about substantial change in the school system.

“What’s at stake is how we want our schools to work for everybody,” Kim said at the rally. “A multiracial, multiethnic coalition is what we need if we really want to make change.” 

While it was clear to White which candidates addressed critical issues like racial equity, she still feels it is nearly impossible to have a clear picture of what each candidate’s exact platform is without attending every campaign event. Looking ahead, White hopes she and other community members will find or create avenues to make this information more accessible for both school board and municipal elections.

On the municipal side, Stephanie Mendoza won the race for city clerk against fellow challenger Cynthia Beebe by over 40 percent, filling the seat of 8th Ward alderperson-elect Devon Reid. 

Mendoza was just one of many newly elected officials, as City Council will see four seats turn over, as well as a new mayor, after this election cycle. She will also be the first Latinx resident to serve on the dais. 

The newcomer ran on a platform of increased transparency in municipal government, namely strengthening education initiatives for the Freedom of Information Act to help residents requesting public records.

As soon as she assumes office May 10, Mendoza said she wanted to make her office more accessible for senior citizens who currently struggle to access necessary records. 

“I want to explore how to give vital records back to the city, specifically in the clerk’s office,” Mendoza said. “There’s not a lot of trust right now when it comes to the way you know the city is being transparent. I think it’s going to be one of those pathways that we can take in order for our community to trust us.”

Part of building that trust, she said, entails bringing FOIA back into the hands of city clerk. Mendoza said she has already met with elected council members on the subject, and hopes to continue moving forward with that plan.

Every candidate endorsed by the Democratic Party of Evanston won their respective races, including Mendoza, Mayor-elect Daniel Biss, 1st Ward alderperson-elect Clare Kelly, Ald. Cicely Fleming (9th), District 65 incumbents Kim and Lindsay-Ryan and the uncontested, all-incumbent Evanston Township High School/District 202 school board slate. 

Rachel Ruttenberg, DPOE board president, said the organization is happy its endorsed candidates won their races. 

However, DPOE is not stepping back from political action for too long. The next election season is already on its way, with the primary coming in less than a year. Multiple prominent Illinois Democrats will be up for reelection, including U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Evanston), U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) and Gov. J.B. Pritzker.

Ruttenberg said the organization’s next endorsement process will likely not take place until the fall. The upcoming strategy, she added, is complicated because Illinois was one of the few states to lose a seat in the House of Representatives after 2020 census numbers were released, and new district lines must be drawn.

“It feels like the 2022 election cycle is far away, but in actuality, activities will likely begin within several months,” Ruttenberg said. “It is a nice time to come back together as an organization, make sure we have all of our operational ducks in a row: our funding, our board members and preparation for the next election cycle.”

Email: [email protected] 

Twitter: @nick24francis

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