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Chicago Decides: Small business owner Megan Mathias faces Ald. James Gardiner in 45th Ward

Small business owner Megan Mathias faces Ald. James Gardiner in 45th Ward
Small business owner Megan Mathias faces Ald. James Gardiner in 45th Ward 03:36

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Controversial incumbent Ald. James Gardiner is facing off against small business owner Megan Mathias in the runoff election in the Northwest Side's 45th Ward.

The ward includes Jefferson Park and Gladstone Park, and parts of Irving Park, Portage Park, Norwood Park, and Edgebrook.

Mathias told CBS 2's Marie Saavedra she has been working in the community for many years – as an attorney, a business owner, and a Local School Council member. But the way she saw the community come together when her husband fell ill with cancer was what made her decide to seek out a leadership role.

"The catalyst here was really my spouse getting very sick with cancer, and he was sick for two years and passed away in 2019," Mathias said. "During that timeframe – I'm from Michigan and he's from Puerto Rico – so we relied a lot on our community, and those connections are very deep. It felt like family, so I felt like I was a little bit like mama bear over the neighborhood, and I could bring better leadership to my neighbors."

Mathias said the biggest issues for the ward are leadership and public safety. She said residents of the 45th Ward presently do not feel "heard."

She did not mention Gardiner or anyone else by name in bringing up problems with leadership.

"I say leadership because we have a unique situation in the 45th Ward, where there is extreme divisiveness that I think stems from certain kinds of leadership styles – and it really stopped the wheels of progress on any issue from getting any better because of how things operate here, or are being operated here," she said.

On public safety, Mathias said she has worked "to be very thoughtful and inclusive in listening to people on all different perspectives and different sides of this issue, and my public safety platform is very inclusive in that way."

We reached out to incumbent Gardiner, who has not responded to our requests for an interview.

Gardiner has been the subject of controversy, scrutiny, and accusations of intimidation and retribution in his term in office. He has been found guilty of violating the city's Ethics Code and is under federal investigation.

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