Ald. Roderick T. Sawyer faces challenge in Chicago's 6th Ward race

CHICAGO (WLS) -- An accountant/entrepreneur is challenging longtime Ald. Roderick T. Sawyer for his seat representing Chicago's 6th Ward in Tuesday's election.

Deborah Foster-Bonner forced Sawyer into an unexpected runoff race in the ward that represents Englewood, Park Manor and Chatham neighborhoods.

Foster-Bonner said she joined the race in October because she wanted to do something about the blighted buildings that dot the primarily residential area, specifically a stretch of 75th Street from King Drive west to the Dan Ryan Expressway which some call the Black-nificent Mile.

"The seniors are afraid, the young guys don't have jobs, so it is like we need to do something to change that diagram so I stepped up," she said.

Foster-Bonner said Sawyer, chairman of the city council's Black Caucus and the son of a former mayor, has not done enough to change the trajectory of residents' lives in his eight-year tenure.

Among her ideas is a grocery cooperative to revitalize the neighborhood because she says, "every big box is gone."

"Look at the trash on the streets," she said. "The people hanging out, we got a methadone clinic 2-1/2 blocks from an elementary school. Why?"

The race's politicking has gotten dirty, such as when the challenger's team caught Sawyer workers taking her signs last week.

Sawyer recognizes change is in the air and admits to being humbled by having to face a runoff.

But he's running on his record.

"In my eight years, I have been co-chair of the Progressive Caucus. I am chair of the Black Caucus. We have brought more capital development into this ward than we have in decades," he said.

Sawyer has strong record of voting with Mayor Rahm Emanuel. He insists, however, he's been the change that people want now.

"Whether it be schools, police reform, whether it be improving the quality of life for working families, working mothers, time off. These are things I have been on the forefront of and I want to continue doing that for the residents of the 6th Ward," Sawyer said.

February's election night was shaping up as an outright win for Sawyer until late, when provisional and mail-in ballots were counted. Tuesday's runoff looks closer -- likely making for a long night.
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