Daniel Biss received strong Citywide support in the Feb. 23 Evanston primary election for mayor, winning 49 out of 50 precincts, with his one “losing” precinct only containing one vote, final precinct results on the Cook County Clerk’s Election site show.

The precinct results also show a sharp drop off in past support for longtime incumbents Donald Wilson and Ann Rainey in the Fourth and Eighth Ward races.

Mr. Biss, a former state legislator and candidate for Governor in the Democratic 2018 primary, needed 50% plus one vote, to win the mayor’s seat outright and not have to face a runoff in the April 6 General election.

He easily topped that total, receiving 7,787 or 73.47% of the 10,614 votes cast, compared to 1,867 or 17.59% for Lori Keenan, a local issues advocate,  and 960 votes or 9.04% for Sebastian Nalls, a Purdue University junior.

Mr. Biss’s 73.27% topped the 72.71 % that the late Lorraine H. Morton received in in her race against lawyer Peter Godwin in 2005.

Mr. Biss had received strong backing from the local political establishment, including Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky, current Mayor Stephen Hagerty and former mayors Elizabeth Tisdahl and Jay Lytle, as well as most of the current City Council. 

In addition he had a big advantage moneywise over his opponents, rolling up more than $100,000 in contributions in the first three months of his campaign, his disclosure report showed, compared to under $3,000 for Ms. Keenan and less than $1,000 for Mr. Nalls, both first-time candidates.

The discrepancy was most telling in the mailings in the campaign, with neither Mr. Nalls nor Ms. Keenan doing mailing, beyond the postcards Ms. Keenan sent out to supporters who had signed her petitions.

Mr. Biss’s support carried throughout the City, precinct-by-precinct results show, though in some precincts in the City’s Fifth Ward voting was light.

In Ward 1, precinct 4 (streets north of Dempster Street, bracketing Sheridan Road) Mr. Biss collected 280 votes to 37 for Ms. Keenan and 16 for Mr. Nalls.

In Ward 4, precinct 4 (the Dempster-Ridge area), Mr. Biss received 327 votes, compared to 68 for Ms. Keenan and 28 for Mr.  Nalls, the posted results show.

In Ward 9, precinct 2 (Dodge Avenue west to Hartrey Avenue) he pulled down 179 votes, compared to 25 for Ms. Keenan and 27 for Mr. Nalls.

Ms. Keenan pulled her most votes in the precincts around her home (Haven Middle School, the polling place), though even there Mr. Biss topped her by more than a 2-to-1 margin.

His only losing precinct was in Ward 7, Precinct 6, with the polling place in Parkes Hall (Alice Millar Chapel).

The precinct is a small one, with only 129 registered voters, and it draws from Northwestern University students, a number who are not on campus right now and likely voted remotely if at all during COVID.

Mr. Nalls won that precinct in a 1-0 vote.

Overall, 10,167 ballots were cast in the mayor’s race, a 20.39 % turnout.

The vote total fell far short of the 17,899 votes cast and 36.93% turnout in the 2017 mayor’s race between Stephen Hagerty and former Sixth Ward Alderman Mark Tendam, where a referendum on the City’s Harley Clarke Mansion was on the ballot.

It fell more in line with the 10,375 ballots cast in a four-way mayoral race in the 2009 General Election.

Fall Off for Incumbents

Precinct results from the Fourth and Eighth Ward Aldermanic races showed incumbents failing to sustain the level of support they had received in the past.

Ald. Wilson had swept the centrally-located ward’s seven precincts in a three-person race in 2009, his first run for office and his only contested race until this year.

In the Feb. 23 primary, he won only one precinct, precinct 5, located at the southeast end of the Ward (the Robert Crown Community Center at its farthest edge.)

He received 388 votes total. Newcomers Jonathan Nieuwsma and Diane Goldring received 531 and 444 votes, respectively, to advance to the General Election. 

In precinct 4, the Dempster-Asbury area, Mr. Nieuwsma, the onetime chairman of the City’s Utilities Commission, received 179 votes, compared to 124 for Ald. Wilson and 122 votes for Ms. Goldring, reflecting the tightly-fought race.

Ms. Goldring, a grassroots activist, showed strength on the east side of the Ward although the votes cast there were lower.

In the southeast Eighth Ward, incumbent Ald. Rainey received 318 total votes, substantially lower than the 764 votes she needed to hold on to her seat in the 2017 General Election.

Devon Reid, currently City Clerk, received 429 votes and Matthew Mitchell, an attorney and Ridgeville Park District board member, received 336 votes, knocking Ald. Rainey out of the General Election.

Her falloff in votes from her narrow victory in 2017 was substantial in some areas.

In precinct 5, in the Dobson-Asbury area she received 103 votes, compared to the 205 votes she received in 2017.

In precinct 4, covering the blocks just west of Ridge Avenue, she received 73 votes compared to 130 for Mr. Mitchell.

Mr. Reid, meanwhile, showed across-the-board strength, the numbers show, winning precinct 1 with 135 votes, to 80 votes for both Mr. Mitchell and Ald. Rainey.

Bob Seidenberg is an award-winning reporter covering issues in Evanston for more than 30 years. He is a graduate of the Northwestern University Medill School of Journalism.

Mary Gavin is the founder of the Evanston RoundTable. After 23 years as its publisher and manager, she helped transition the RoundTable to nonprofit status in 2021. She continues to write, edit, mentor...