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Candidates For Mayor, Alderman Line Up For Chance At Top Spot On Ballot

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Less than two weeks after the midterms, the next election is kicking into gear in Chicago, as candidates for mayor, city clerk, city treasurer, and alderman launch their efforts to get on the February ballot.

Monday is the first day candidates can submit nominating petitions in the 2019 city elections,

Collecting signatures on nominating petitions is one of the first major tests for campaigns. Just as it's important to get out the vote, first candidates have to get their name on the ballot.

Many of those candidates are vying to be the first name listed on the ballot in their respective races. It's a coveted slot for candidates, especially in crowded races, as being at the top of the ballot is often seen as an advantage at the polls.

To be first on the ballot, a candidate or a surrogate must line up at the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners before 9 a.m. on the first day petitions can be submitted. That candidate will then be entered into a lottery for the first spot on the ballot.

That's why, despite frigid temperatures, a few candidates and dozens of campaign representatives toughed it out outside 69 W. Washington St. overnight.

"We've been here since yesterday, 4 o'clock," said Joseph Williams, who is running for alderman in the 15th Ward. "I am hoping as well to be the first one on the ballot, but no matter what, I love the experience. I love being down here, down with a lot of great people, and I'm just glad to be down here with them."

Some incumbent aldermen avoided the cold, knowing that arriving at 69 W. Washington St. after the doors opened at 6 a.m. would still get them a chance at the lottery without having to wait outside.

To get on the ballot for mayor or other citywide offices for the city elections on Feb. 26, 2019, candidates must turn in at least 12,500 valid signatures on nominating petitions. Usually, candidates try to gather at least twice that many signatures, to make sure they can survive challenges from their rivals.

It's also seen as a show of a campaign's muscle to greatly exceed the signature requirement.

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle said her campaign turned in about five times the required number of signatures. Former Chicago Public Schools CEO Paul Vallas said he turned in about four times the necessary signatures.

Candidates for alderman need far fewer signatures, only 473, but many candidates say turning in far more than that on the first filing day is a way to fend of potential challenges from rival campaigns.

"We have to raise 473 signatures. We raised five times the amount," aldermanic candidate Aida Flores said.

Chicago voters go to the polls in less than 100 days, and while many are jaded by the state of national politics, locally idealism is thriving.

"Being the first woman to run and win in this ward, and represent us well would be our goal," said Cleopatra Watson, running for alderman in the 9th

The last position on the ballot also is thought to offer something of an advantage. Candidates hoping for that spot must turn in their nominating petitions during the last hour on the final day on Nov. 26.

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