The Cappleman win came four years after a defeat at the hands of City Council veteran Helen Shiller.
Shiller had built a popular political base in the 46th Ward. Working a campaign to extend low income housing, shelters, and institutional living into the large apartment buildings in the Ward, she had been noted as an early opponent of Mayor Richard Daley.
However, the demographics of the Ward changed as low cost housing attracted younger and more affluent residents. Their concerns were about crime and development, not providing housing opportunities to the poor.
Cappleman was a key to expressing those concerns, working to create positive loitering efforts and working with the community to battle crime.
Embracing Daley’s use of TIFs Shiller became personally identified with a redevelopment of the CTA Wilson Yards, located north of Broadway and Montrose.
Wilson Yards development became a political battle ground. Phelan played a key role opposing Wilson Yards, waging a legal battle over the development. The developer in turn suing to learn the identities of persons making largely negative comments in on-line forums such as Uptown Update. And Shiller seeming to turn on her constituents.
Shiller began to seem distant and unresponsive to residents needs.
Shiller blamed the public and in particular blogs and bloggers for her problems. Her announcement that she would retire was treated with enthusiasm by many in Uptown.
In the end, Shiller seemed a relic of a by-gone age when progressives fought for people who couldn’t fight for themselves. As the Ward became more affluent, it could fend for itself, but still needed an alderman on its side.
Instead, it found itself locked in long legal and community battles with an alderman who was convinced they were right and everyone else was wrong.
The result, 11 people running for the office and a legacy of divisiveness.
Eleven candidates, no clear leader
As the February general election approached it became clear that voters were having difficulty separating the candidates. Bulldog political writer Michael Volpe remembers going to a forum where all the candidates spoke. The lengthy forum only proved confusing.
Don Nowotny, the Ward Supervisor under Shiller, was believed by many to be an early contender for the aldermanic seat.
But events in the Ward were working to Cappleman’s favor. A rash of shootings and murders brought media attention to the violence in the Ward. It was an issue Cappleman was well positioned to benefit from due to his work in ‘Blood Alley’ and on CAPS.
Phelan collected money from family and interests outside the ward while Cappleman developed a system to farm money from supporters, returning again and again for their support. In addition, The Bulldog noted that Phelan’s contributions were mostly large donations while a significant part of Cappleman’s donations were in small denominations.
Following the General Election, Lauren Peters, Cappleman’s campaign manager, confided to The Bulldog that Cappleman was matching Phelan’s A-1 filings with their combination of large and small contributions.
As the race dragged through March each side became more desperate. The break appears to have been a political push poll by the Fraternal Order of Police that was perceived as homophobic.
Phelan was asked to repudiate the poll, but refused. In a Ward perceived as gay-friendly this may have been the end.
In the final week of the race a forum between the two candidates at Truman College attracted close to 400 persons. There Shiller attacked both candidates, but especially Cappleman. Again, it is difficult to know for certain, but the unpopular Shiller may have energized the race to the benefit of Cappleman.
Among run-off elections Cappleman’s margin was among the top half of all run-offs since 2003, just missing being among the top third of all run-offs.
- Joann Thompson 16th Ward 2011 (2,037 or 56.38 percent);
- Willie Cochran 20th Ward 2011 (2,359 or 53.59 percent);
- Toni Foulkes 15th Ward 2011 (2,412 or 68.68 percent);
- Theodore “Ted” Thomas 15th Ward 2003 (2,419 or 54.36 percent);
- Toni Foulkes 15th Ward 2007 (2,795 or 60.22 percent);
- Joann Thompson 16th Ward 2007 (2,981 or 56.48 percent);
- Latasha Thomas 17th Ward 2011 (3,124 or 52.64 percent);
- Michael Chandler 24th Ward 2011 (3,273 or 60.48 percent);
- Sharon Denise Dixon 24th Ward 2007 (3,304 or 51.5 percent);
- Danny Solis 25th Ward 2011 (3,898 or 54.13 percent);
- Joe Moore 49th Ward 2007 (4,027 or 51.61 percent);
- Rey Colan 35th Ward 2007 (4,076 or 62.3 percent);
- Pat Dowell 3rd Ward 2007 (4,517 or 53.97 percent);
- Scott Waguespack 32nd Ward 2007 (4,179 or 50.73 percent);
- Vi Daley 43rd Ward 2007 (4,483 or 53.88 percent);
- Timothy Cullerton 38th Ward 2011 (4,722 or 60.29 percent);
- Roderick Sawyer 6th Ward 2011 (5,080 or 50.62 percent);
- Freddrenna Lyle 6th Ward 2003 (5,193 or 55.52 percent);
- Manuel “Manny” Flores 1st Ward 2003 (5,290 or 58.73 percent);
- James Cappleman 46th Ward 2011 (5,502 or 55.44 percent);
- Nicholas Sposato 36th Ward 2011 (5,629 or 56.25 percent);
- Michele Smith 43rd Ward 2011 (5,803 or 51.17 percent);
- Debra Silverstein 50th Ward 2011 (5,931 or 61.6 percent)
- Bernard Stone 50th Ward 2007 (6,015 or 53.11 percent);
- Howard Brookins, Jr. 21st Ward 2003 (6,015 or 50.54 percent);
- Lona Lane 18th Ward 2007 (6,053 or 67.48 percent);
- John Arena 45th Ward 2011 (6,053 or 50.12 percent);
- Bob Fioretti 2nd Ward 2007 (6,175 or 65.7 percent);
- Howard Brookins, Jr. 21st Ward 2007 (6,423 or 60.81 percent);
- Mary O’Connor 41st Ward 2011 (7,332 or 50.92 percent);
*** UPDATED 04/06/2011 3:13A ***