A whopper of an aldermanic race appears to be developing in the Lincoln Park 43rd Ward, and caught awkwardly in the middle is Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
Emanuel has been fairly tight with incumbent Ald. Michele Smith, who says she will seek a new term in the February election. Now former Emanuel staffer Derek Lindblom is getting into the contest, too, quietly filing a statement of organization last month and, more significantly, disclosing in another filing yesterday that he’s already raised more than $60,000.
Among those on Lindblom’s list of donors, giving the maximum $5,600 each, are former Deputy Mayors Mark Angelson and Steve Koch. Among consultants working on his campaign are former Emanuel political operative Tom Bowen; AKPD Message & Media, which has close City Hall ties; and the Strategy Group, the firm of Emanuel political spokesman Pete Giangreco.
Lindblom, 36, goes back to the early days of the Emanuel Administration, serving on the then mayor-elect’s transition team and later as chief of staff of the Mayor’s Economic Council, working on issues including pension reform and luring the federally backed Digital Manufacturing Center to Goose Island. The Harvard Law graduate—he was president of the Harvard Law and Policy Review—is vice president of 7 Wire Ventures, a health-care start-up for which he handles financial issues.
In a phone interview, Lindblom says he’s running “to make a diference” in what under Smith’s leadership “is a ward that’s become very divisive. There’s been a lot of conflict in the community. I think I can put together a consensus and do better.” Lindblom declined to give specifics—”right now, we’re in the listening mode”—but appears to be referencing disputes over how to develop the sites once occupied by Finkl Steel and Children’s Memorial Hospital.
Lindblom also wouldn’t talk about Emanuel. “I’m not going to speak for the mayor’s office” was all he’d say when I asked him if he has spoken with and received clearance from Emanuel to run. “I’m proud of my donors” he added.
Giangreco declined to comment. Another source close to the mayor said the support Lindblom is getting is a sign that he impressed colleagues rather than an indication of where Emanuel will end up in the contest. “If we really wanted to send a message, we would,” that source said. “We’re not.”
Smith confirmed that she’ll be announcing for a new term soon, and shrugged off the challenge, which also could draw other competitors.
“I’ve always had a good relationship with the mayor,” said Smith, who has jostled with Emanuel over park space and Airbnb rules but voted for his budgets and tax hikes. “As an independent, I agree with him sometimes and disagree sometimes.”
Another former Emanuel staffer, Michael Negron, is running to succeed the retiring Ald. Ameya Pawar in the 47th Ward, located just to the northwest of the 43rd Ward.