Voters in the 29th Ward will have three candidates to choose from when early voting starts Tuesday: Ald. Chris Taliaferro, community activist Dwayne Truss and event coordinator Zerlina A. Smith.
All three beat back petition challenges filed late last year with the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners.
“The system [to get on the ballot] needs to be fairer; we need to have a system that every citizen can afford to participate in,” said Truss, an auditor for the state of Illinois.
“The challenge was frivolous,” said Truss, whose petitions were challenged by Yolanda L. Hoskins and Samuel Lewing. “I had more than enough signatures to get on the ballot.”
Candidates running for one of 50 seats on the Chicago City Council are required to collect at least 473 signatures of eligible voters in their ward to be allowed on the ballot.
Taliaferro’s candidacy was unsuccessfully challenged by Anthony Harris, Verlestel Branch and Yolanda L. Hoskins, while Smith fought off an objection from Bruce Washington.
A fourth candidate hoping to run for the 29th Ward aldermanic seat, Gayinga Washington, did not meet the required amount of signatures and will not appear on the ballot.
Truss, 56, who has been active in community issues in the ward for over 30 years, said he’s running for alderman because he wants to give voters the opportunity to vote for a faithful public servant.
Over the years, Truss has worked to renovate Austin High School, Westinghouse High School, Rockne Stadium and Austin community parks. He’s also a member of several community organizations, including Austin Coming Together, founder of the Austin Youth League, and has been honored for his civic work by LISC and Friends of the Park.
In a recent interview, Truss said educational equity, affordable housing, crime and behavioral health are the most critical issues facing the 29th Ward.
“Economic development begins when you invest in the people,” the first-time candidate said. “There are plenty of jobs out there to be filled where people can support themselves.”
Truss’ campaign took in about $5,500 in the fourth quarter of 2018, with most financial support coming from the candidate himself. As of Dec. 31, he reported having $271.94 on hand, according to the Illinois Board of Elections.
Taliaferro’s campaign reported collecting nearly $35,000 in the fourth quarter of 2018; he had $16,610.15 on hand, according to the Illinois Board of Elections.
Taliaferro, who did not return repeated calls for comment, won the 29th Ward seat four years ago in a runoff, defeating then-Ald. Deborah Graham by fewer than 500 votes.
He received 51.7 percent of the votes to Graham’s 48.3 percent, according to local election officials. Before winning a seat on the city council, Taliaferro worked as a sergeant for the Chicago Police Department. The Chicago Teacher’s Union has endorsed Taliaferro.
Smith, who could not be reached for comment, was one of eight candidates who ran for 29th Ward alderman in 2015; she finished fifth.
She reported taking in $10,000 during the final quarter of 2018 – some of it in loans – and having $5,000 on hand as of Dec. 31, 2018, according to state election board records.
All three candidates completed questionnaires for the Chicago Sun-Times, which can be found here:
Early voting begins Jan. 29 at the Loop “super site,” 175 W. Washington St. Starting Feb. 11, voters can cast their ballots in the 29th Ward at Amundsen Park, 6200 W Bloomingdale. For voters wanting to wait until Election Day to cast their ballots, they may do so from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 26.