Alumni run for Chicago mayor


Photo courtesy of Tribune News Service

Chance the Rapper endorses Amara Enyia, right, for mayor of Chicago at a news conference at City Hall on Oct. 16 in Chicago

By Sidney Madden, Assistant Features Editor

With the University being only 134 miles from Chicago, the city is a popular destination for many college graduates and is also the hometown of many students. As a result, Illinois alumni often have their hand in shaping Chicago politics and policies.

The Chicago mayoral election on Tuesday has an unprecedented 14 candidates running for office, including University alumni Bob Fioretti, Gery Chico and Amara Enyia.

During his time at the University, Fioretti served as the Undergraduate Student Association chairman, a governing student body that preceded Illinois Student Government. Fioretti was in this role during a contentious time on campus and around the country, as the Vietnam War was ending and Nixon was in office. During his tenure on campus, he lobbied to get a student trustee on the Board of Trustees and almost won a local office in Champaign.

Though Chico only attended the University for two years, Chico also found himself in leadership positions on campus, most prominently as the chairman of the Alumni Association. He ended up transferring to the University of Illinois at Chicago campus to be in the city in which he was born and raised.

Both Chico and Fioretti have run for mayor before. Chico ran in 2011 and Fioretti ran in 2015, but both were defeated by Rahm Emanuel.

Get The Daily Illini in your inbox!

  • Catch the latest on University of Illinois news, sports, and more. Delivered every weekday.
  • Stay up to date on all things Illini sports. Delivered every Monday.
This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.
Thank you for subscribing!

Chico, who was runner-up in 2011, said this election is challenging because it’s hard to stand out among so many candidates.

“I’m learning now how to cope with that larger field, making it more difficult to raise money,” he said. “I’m learning now that it’s harder to get your ideas out because the press is listening to 14 candidates instead of two.”

After completing their undergraduate educations, Chico and Fioretti also went to law school at other institutions in the state. Chico has served in several positions within the city, including the Chicago Public Schools chairman. Fioretti was alderman of Chicago’s 2nd ward.

Amara Enyia received her undergraduate, graduate, law and doctorate degrees from the University. During her time on campus, she was heavily involved in various organizations and was the first black editor-in-chief of The Daily Illini.

Today, Enyia is endorsed by Chicagoan and musician Chance the Rapper. Her grassroots campaign is aided by many college students, including field organizer Malik Jackson, senior in FAA.

Jackson, also from Chicago, was looking to volunteer for Enyia’s campaign when he was asked to interview for a more intensive position. Coming from a politically and socially active family and based on his own city planning interests, Jackson was happy to try and mobilize student voters on campus. He founded a new nonpartisan organization on campus called Bright Future Coalition in September. While the organization is still in its developmental stage, Jackson saw a perfect opportunity to use Bright Future as a launching pad to raise awareness on campus for the mayoral election. He is careful not to promote any single candidate, and just wants to get students more involved in the electoral process.

He has seen that many students from Chicago seem unaware of the election and inattentive to the issues at stake, likely because they are not directly affected.

“This is weird because we’ve seen school closures come to the forefront and everyone is complaining about that, and you get the Laquan McDonald cover up and everyone is yelling about that,” he said. “But then you get to the local election, it’s time to make a decision about who the new leadership should be.”

According to the Division of Management Information for Fall 2018 enrollment, over 5,000 University students have Chicago area zip codes listed for their home addresses, including off-campus and non-degree students. That is nearly 11 percent of the total student population. Jackson is encouraging Chicago-based students who requested their mail-in ballots to send them in by election day. Their votes will be counted so long as the postage date is no later than Tuesday.

Fellow Chicagoan Caitlyn Flaherty, freshman in LAS, also got involved in Enyia’s campaign after being inspired by Enyia’s progressive priorities. She connected with Jackson and has also been mobilizing student voters through Bright Future.

While many are discouraged by the polarized state of politics at the local and national levels, Flaherty remains optimistic about how policy and people can make a positive difference, especially among the incoming generation.

“(Politics) is really a great avenue to enact change,” she said. “So much of our daily lives revolve around policy measure and large policy measures at that. And I think especially with the rise of the Trump, I think a lot of young people are looking to get involved and just voted for the first time, so that excites me.”

[email protected]