Incumbent Knudsen defeats Brian Comer by a slim margin to keep top seat in the Lincoln Park/Old Town area
Timmy Knudsen keeps his seat as the 43rd Ward alderperson — this time as an elected official. The candidate, appointed by Mayor Lori Lightfoot, won Tuesday’s runoff vote with 51.7% of the vote, beating his opponent, Brian Comer, who rose out of a packed race on February 28 to challenge Knudsen in the runoff.
Knudsen led by 529 votes when he was declared the winner Tuesday night.
“I was beyond humbled to be appointed to this position as the first LGBTQ alderman in the 43rd Ward,” Knudsen said to a room of supporters following the election results. “Now, I can’t even stress how grateful I am to say that we have been elected to serve.”
Both candidates ran on increasing public safety, an issue of growing concern to 43rd Ward residents as crime rates, which saw an almost 17% increase in the ward between 2021 and 2022, continue to rise in the area and across the city.
The two candidates expressed the need for more police patrolling the ward. However, they campaigned on different approaches. Knudsen’s campaign called for more security cameras equipped with license-plate readers, community policing and investment in Chicago’s Crisis Assistance Response Engagement (CARE) plan which has mental-health professionals respond to nonviolent 911 calls on mental health.
Comer’s approach focused heavily on filling staffing shortages at the Chicago Police Department, proposing a plan that provided partial tuition reimbursement for DePaul students who serve CPD following graduation. Comer, a graduate of DePaul, said that participants of the program would serve CPD for four years and then would be reimbursed for one year’s tuition, according to his response to the Chicago Tribune’s questionnaire. The Chicago Tribune Editorial Board was excited by this plan and gave their endorsement to Comer, who proudly displayed it on his campaign literature.
While Knudsen will keep his City Council seat, he’ll be working with a new mayor. Brandon Johnson took the top seat at City Hall last night in a tight race with candidate Paul Vallas.
“I can’t wait to call him and just say, ‘I’m so excited to work with you,’” Knudsen told 14 East.
Though he was endorsed by Vallas during the runoff election, Knudsen refrained from endorsing either candidate. Comer, on the other hand, gave his support to Vallas.
The alderperson plans to continue efforts on public safety in the ward following the win after getting a good night’s sleep.
The final push for the election
Both candidates were up before the sun on Tuesday, jumping between polling locations hoping to reach the final voters in this election.
“It’s the end of a nine-month journey,” Comer told 14 East while speaking to voters at the Lincoln Park Library four hours before polls closed. He was prepared with a 100-day plan for his first days in office if the election’s result had gone in his favor.
“The feedback I was getting from the residents is … they wanted positive change. They wanted leadership, they wanted someone to engage and listen to them,” Comer said ahead of the night’s results.
Candidates’ family members were also on the campaign trail on Tuesday, though many said they had been helping the campaign for months. Comer’s family gathered with supporters and friends at Homeslice in Lincoln Park awaiting election results. Knudsen’s parents, who say they live outside the city, were knocking on doors and canvassing outside polling places the past few days.
Kreig Knudsen, the alderperson’s father, celebrated the election, saying, “We always knew we would end up in something, but not knowing what,” he told 14 East following the election results.
The race to the runoff
Knudsen and Comer led the pack of six candidates in the February 28 election, receiving 26.8% and 24.1% of the vote, respectively. However, neither came close to that 50% vote requirement to win the election outright.
Knudsen racked up dozens of endorsements, including six former alderpersons of the 43rd Ward. He also received support from major political players, including defeated mayoral runoff candidate Paul Vallas, former Secretary of State Jesse White and U.S. Senator Dick Durbin.
Rebecca Janowitz and Wendi Taylor Nations, the former 43rd Ward aldermanic candidates who received the next-highest votes on February 28, endorsed Knudsen following their losses. Remaining candidates Steve Botsford and Steven McClellan did not endorse either candidate for the runoff.
While public-safety measures led Knudsen’s and Comer’s campaigns, both candidates showed support for other issues. Knudsen showed support for reproductive and gender-affirming healthcare and issues surrounding the LGBTQ+ community. Comer campaigned on affordable housing in the ward, including the preservation of affordable apartments and mixed-income developments. Comer also made commitments to environmental protections, among other promises for community empowerment.
While promoting their campaign platforms, the two made their fair share of attacks on their opponent. Alex Hanns, a prominent member of Knudsen’s campaign team, was photographed and confronted by Comer himself for removing Comer’s campaign signs throughout the ward.
Knudsen’s political attacks on the Comer campaign continued into the runoff, where a webpage on his campaign website claimed that Comer is “spreading dangerous misinformation.” Comer created a campaign video that incorrectly described a struggle between a man and a police officer in early March, which Knudsen referenced. “Comer showed up to the scene and filmed the video, incorrectly saying the officer had been shot,” Block Club Chicago’s Jake Wittich reported. Comer has since deleted the original video and posted a video in response.
Comer shared his distaste for Knudsen’s attacks. “There’s a pattern of immaturity that the appointed alderman has shown since he’s been in office and during his campaign,” Comer told Block Club Chicago ahead of the February 28 election. He’s made an attempt at “setting the record straight” on his campaign website, hoping to share facts about Knudsen and the campaign’s attacks.
Knudsen will begin his first full term as 43rd Ward alderperson on May 15, joined by some new faces, including Mayor-elect Johnson, 30th Ward Alderperson-elect Ruth Cruz, 46th Ward Alderperson-elect Anglea Clay and more new to Chicago’s City Council.
Header image by Kate Linderman