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James Suh, who says Ald. James Gardiner tried to silence him, plans to run for alderman himself

CHICAGO (CBS) -- A man accusing a Northwest Side alderman of trying to intimidate and silence him now says he wants that alderman's job.

AS CBS 2 Political Investigator Dana Kozlov reported Monday night, James Suh says Ald. James Gardiner (45th) retaliated against him after getting publicly criticized.

The feud started more than a year ago. The claims against the alderman that resulted got him in trouble with the city's Board of Ethics – and the matter is now in court.

While that case between Suh and Gardiner is still pending, Suh is planning to file his petition to run for Gardiner's seat next week.

Suh knows he entered the aldermanic race late in the game. But that did not deter him from getting more than 1,400 petition signatures in just the past few weeks to run against Gardiner.

Kozlov asked Suh if he has any concerns about taking on Gardiner.

"Sure, I definitely do have concerns," Suh said. "I do have my wife. I have my two young kids about. But then at the same time, I just can't really back down in the face of retaliation or intimidation."

Suh is referring to texts between Gardiner and a staffer, exchanged after Suh criticized the alderman at a 2019 rally. They discussed using a staffer's family connection to get a hold of Suh's past arrest record and mug shot.

"James Suh says I overstep boundaries?" Gardiner wrote in a text. "Maybe that gets leaked."

In September of last year, the Board of Ethics found probable cause that this action violated the city's Ethics Code. Gardiner said at a City Council meeting on Sept. 15, 2021, that the comments he made did not reflect his values.

Two months later, Suh sued Gardiner for defamation and violating his civil rights.

Kozlov: "Do you feel there's any sort of conflict of interest now that you're running for alderman with also having an ongoing lawsuit?"

Suh: "I don't think there's a conflict of interest per se, because it's all about being an ethical and moral and transparent and fair elected official."

Suh says his run for alderman is not about revenge – but all about public service.

"It's not about challenging him for his office," Suh said. "It really is just about wanting to bring change to the community."

Kozlov has repeatedly tried to talk to Gardiner about the texts, charges, and lawsuits with no luck.

For this story, Kozlov spoke with a staffer at Gardiner's office by phone Friday, asking for the alderman to call. He again did not.

So far, Gardiner and two others – Susana Ernst and Megan Mathias – have filed to be on the ballot for the 45th Ward.

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