The two candidates vying for a council seat in the 9th Ward squared off in a vibrant discussion at an electoral forum Saturday, March 18, at the Lorraine H. Morton Civic Center, 2100 Ridge Ave.

Incumbent Juan Geracaris, appointed by Mayor Daniel Biss last year, is competing for a two-year term against Kathy Hayes.

Ninth Ward residents Lucy Elam (left) and Al Telser (right) listen during the Saturday forum. Credit: Manan Bhavnani

“This was great! I didn’t know anything about Kathy [Hayes]. I was really eager to see what her platform was and her take on politics in Evanston,” said 9th Ward resident Lucy Elam.

Both candidates identified the budget, affordability and equity as three key issues facing the ward and the city.

“People have talked endlessly about the issues regarding the budget. We have got to figure out how to be fiscally responsible,” Hayes said at the forum.

A longtime Evanston resident and public official, she said the ward, which is primarily residential, is a “microcosm” across neighborhoods. The ward lost nearly 1,000 residents and is undersized by 8.7%, per the 2020 Census. Evanston’s redistricting in the coming months will have a big impact on both the ward and the city, Hayes said.

Ninth Ward candidates Juan Geracaris (left, incumbent) and Kathy Hayes (right) at the forum ahead of the consolidated election on Monday, March 20. Credit: Manan Bhavnani

Geracaris, founder and vice president of Evanston Latinos and the first Latino to serve on the City Council, touted his efforts to advance ranked-choice voting, securing reproductive rights and promoting equity in how the City Council operates.

“I’m someone who gets things done and I’m excited to continue my work,” he said.

Last week, Biss endorsed both council members Krissie Harris (2nd) and Geracaris (9th) as the pair of appointees contest reelection. The duo stepped into their roles following the resignations of their predecessors Peter Braithwaite and Cicely Fleming, respectively.

“They’ve been voices of stability in a turbulent time. We’ll be lucky to have them stay on for two more years,” Biss said.

The candidates appeared at a forum hosted by the League of Women Voters of Evanston. They were also asked about the proposed Northwestern University Ryan Field project and how they plan to reach their constituents.

“We need to have a good, honest, above-board conversation with Northwestern,” Hayes said. Geracaris, a senior system administrator at the school, recused himself from the question, but said the school and the city are intertwined.

“I like Juan [Geracaris], I think he’s done a good job. I’d like to see him stay on the council,” said longtime ward resident and LWVE member Al Telser. A retired NU faculty member, Telser has lived in the ward since 1971.

Early voting is open through April 3, and election day is April 4. More details are available on the city’s website.

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Manan Bhavnani

Prior to joining the RoundTable, Manan Bhavnani covered business and technology for the International Business Times, with a focus on mergers, earnings and governance. He is a double Medill graduate, with...

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