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How I made my decision about who to vote for in Chicago’s 43rd Ward aldermanic election

Posted on Apr 3, 2015 in Uncategorized


Today was a really interesting day, and I learned a little about politics and much about the campaign for alderman in Chicago’s 43rd Ward. In case you have been living in a cave or isolating in cynicism — Election Day is Tuesday and if you live in Chicago the outcome will directly affect your life. So vote.

I live in Chicago’s 43rd Ward, and I have been undecided in the run-off election. Alderman Michelle Smith’s challenger is Caroline Vickery. The race has been contentious. #Understatement

Most elected officials and democratic activists that I respect and support have endorsed Smith, including Jen Kramer who I voted for in the primary. I’ve had many conversations with them, asking their opinions and impressions. Yesterday I realized that I have been asking every one I know for information and opinions – except the candidates themselves.

So this morning I reached out to both candidates. I emailed Michelle via the contact form on her website and did not hear back so I called the campaign office; I emailed Caroline via her direct email on her campaign website. Michelle called me back within about 20 minutes and spoke with me on the phone at length; Caroline Vickery emailed me back in about and hour and met with me at Nookies for lunch an hour later. Keep in mind; we are 3 days from Election Day. These people are more than a little busy.

Lesson #1:  Much to my satisfaction, I discovered that if I wanted to learn more about candidates I don’t need to rely on the flyers or the news – I can just ASK. It is actually possible to have thoughtful conversations with candidates. It may have affected the outcome of my decision if I did not get a response from one or the other, but as it was, they both promptly and kindly responded.

One thing that saddens me about this otherwise refreshing experience is that apparently the elected officials and democratic activists I reference above who endorsed Smith did not meet with Vickery before issuing their endorsement. I don’t know this for a fact, and I did not ask everyone, but I did ask Caroline who met with her, and it made me sad when I ran down a list of people and the answer was, no, no, no. I will tell you that this does influence my vote, and it does make this political optimist a wee bit more cynical about the process.

Lesson #2: The political machine is apparently alive and well, even if they are your friends. From now on, I am going to do my own research.

The conversations I had with the candidates helped me make my decision. I am voting for Caroline Vickery. We talked about the Children’s Memorial Development, about Lincoln Elementary, about taxes and parks and about working with the community. Her views on these issues mostly align with my own. She is exceptionally knowledgeable and thoughtful. I am satisfied that she will be effective and move forward and not backward. She addressed each criticism and concern that has been raised about her head on, confident but humble. And lest you think I am just a softy, I am also voting to reelect Rahm Emanuel as our Mayor, who I believe is also the best person for the job, and could be even better if he honed his listening skills. But that is the subject of another post.

I know many of my friends will not agree with me, but that is ok. I know that I did my research, I learned as much as I could and I however it turns out, I am quite sure the 43rd Ward will be better for having this intense campaign “discussion” (though, it might take some forgiveness…).

I’ll close on this last point, a topic I discussed with both candidates: The opposite of “getting things done” is not kind and thoughtful. These things can and should co-exist and will result in more progress and greater success.  If the voters have spoken about anything at all this year it seems to be this, and I agree.

Elections have consequences.  – Scott Walker

One of the great cliches of campaign journalism is the notion that American elections have long since ceased to be about issues and ideas.  -Matt Taibbi



  1. DZ
    April 3, 2015

    Great blog Kel does she support the Mayor or Chuey? Thanks for the great information

    • Kelly O'Brien
      April 3, 2015

      you know, i did not even ask her that. I did ask her if she felt this race would affect her ability to work with him and others if she was elected, given his very strong support for Michelle. I am paraphrasing, but she said she did not think so, that she wanted to work with him, that she hoped and expected once the election was behind everyone he would work with who was elected. that is the flavor of it, don’t quote me! 🙂

  2. Toni Hargis
    April 6, 2015

    i agree. The misinformation around and the political shenanigans have been awful in this race. It’s interesting that Smith hasn’t been endorsed by anyone else on the City council.

  3. Gina
    April 6, 2015

    Caroline supports Rahm.


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