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Ald. Gil Villegas wins runoff in race for reelection in 36th Ward

Ald. Gilbert Villegas touts independent leadership in victory
Ald. Gilbert Villegas touts independent leadership in victory 01:48

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Ald. Gil Villegas (36th) won Tuesday night in his runoff race for reelection.

With all precincts reporting, Villegas had 58 percent of the vote compared with 42 percent for challenger Lori Torres Whitt.

CBS 2's Marissa Perlman asked Villegas how he would be able to connect such a diverse district – both geographically and demographically.

"An independent Democrat City Council member is going to the City Council to represent not just the special interest groups that are being out there that are trying to say negative thing about us, but today, the community said: 'You know what? We love the fact that you have an independent, you have great leadership – and we're sending you back to City Hall to represent us,'" Villegas said.

Villegas said the work starts officially Wednesday with creating two ward offices across his district – one on the east side and one on the west.

Whitt conceded Tuesday night:

"I formally conceded to Alderman Villegas this evening. We did not get the result we hoped for and worked for tonight in the 36th Ward, but thanks to you, we've continued to build our movement and stood true to our values," Whitt said in a news release. "We are disappointed tonight, but we will keep working tomorrow. This isn't the end. I am grateful for the unwavering support of my family, friends, staff and coalition who showed up in full force for me, and to ensure we have Brandon Johnson as our next mayor. I am celebrating a win for our movement tonight."

Whitt's concession statement suggested no love lost between her and Villegas:

"Today, at the polls we saw escalations beyond what we've seen during any election cycle. Our volunteers had vehicular tampering, our poll watchers were intimidated by our opponents team, and were physically threatened. 

"This is beyond the normal dirty tricks. I believe in fighting for what you believe in, but I fight fair. Gil and his team play by the old school machine rules that push people out of public service with threats like this. The 36th Ward deserves an ethical and accountable member of City Council. I will never run a campaign that encourages this type of behavior. The people should be able to participate in democracy without fear and intimidation."

The ward has an odd shape after being redrawn – crawling northwest up Grand Avenue from West Town to Montclare. As CBS 2's Marissa Perlman reported, some people compare the ward to a pool noodle or a snake – and call it a prime example of gerrymandering.

Villegas was elected in 2015. CBS 2's Marie Saavedra recently asked Villegas why he is seeking another term.

"I have a career and a life of public service – whether it was serving in the Marines, serving as a union steward – shop steward for the Teamsters – serving nearly a decade in state government in senior positions or as an alderman for the past eight years, I've always had this urge to serve; make sure that we're representing working families," Villegas said, "and now with a new mayor coming in, I want to make sure that we have experienced leadership that has the ability to deliver for working families."

Whitt is 23-year veteran Chicago Public Schools teacher, and said she is running because she feels some people do not have a voice in city government.

"I'm a born and raised Chicagoan who wants to see our communities invested in, and wants to see and hear the voices of people like mine be represented in City Council – and I don't believe that exists just yet," she said, "and so I am as a CPS teacher and a mother of three and a community activist, somebody who is going to take with me the voices of the working families here in Chicago."

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