By Bob Seidenberg
Mayor Daniel Biss made known early his endorsements off candidates running in a special election April 4 to fill two City Council seats.
Biss has actively promoted his choices — Krissie Harris in the 2nd Ward, and Juan Geracaris, in the 9th.
But the mayor’s endorsement is just one of many endorsements from groups and individuals — some with much longer histories of local involvement than the mayor — which candidates are claiming as the election heads into its final days, a look at websites show.
For instance, candidates Darlene Cannon in the 2nd, and Katherine “Kathy” Hayes in the 9th Ward, both have the backing of the Democratic Party of Evanston (DPOE) as well as the Evanston Firefighters 742, the local firefighters Union — groups which have played active roles in the past — including in the Mayor’s election in 2021 — helping getting voters out.
Here, listed alphabetically by name, are some biographical details about the candidates and some of the supporters they have listed on their websites.
A lifelong resident of the 2nd Ward, Cannon ran a strong race against the incumbent Peter Braithwaite in the 2021 municipal election, losing by 71 votes. A member of the city’s Equity and Empowerment Commission, her work has included raising awareness regarding city overspending in the Robert Crown Community Center project, stopping privatization of Harley Clarke, organizing a major food drive during the pandemic and fighting for a $15-an-hour minimum wage.
Her supporters as listed on her website, darlenefor2.org, include former Cook County Commissioner Larry Suffredin, former 9th Ward Council member Fleming, Rachel Ruttenberg, Democratic Party of Evanston, Bennett Johnson, longtime Evanston civil rights leader, Kevin Brown, the city’s popular Community Services manager whose 2019 firing touched off community protests, and Cameron Davis, Metropolitan Water Reclamation District Commissioner.
The groups backing her include the Community Alliance for Better Government, Evanston Firefighters Local 742 and the Democratic Party of Evanston.
Gregory, born and raised in Evanston, is a physical education teacher at Lincoln Elementary School. She currently serves on on the Evanston Parks & Recreation Board, as well as the Reba Learning Center Board. She previously served on the Evanston Skokie District 65 Strategic Planning Committee, and was co-chair of the District 65 and 202 PTA Council, according to information on her website, https://patriciagregoryfor2ndward.com/
Gregory said she deliberately has not put out a supporters list, hoping to protect people supporting her from being harassed. She said she has also not sought donations in the campaign, “because I don’t want people to feel I owe them something.”
“I want to represent the whole ward not certain people in the ward,” she said.
Kristian “Krissie” Harris:
Harris is a 5th generation Evanston resident. Harris is manager of student life and campus inclusion at Oakton Community College. Her track record of community service includes serving as a trustee of 2nd Baptist Church, volunteering at a weekly food giveaway program, and serving as an active member of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority. She has also served on a number of boards, including the YWCA/North Shore, the Dajae Coleman Foundation, and Family Focus Auxiliary.
Her supporters, as listed on her website, krissieharris.com, include Mayor Daniel Biss, Alderpersons, Melissa Wynne, 3rd, Jonathan Nieuwsma, 4th, Bobby Burns, 5th, Eleanor Revelle, 7th, and Devon Reid, 8th.
Other listed supporters include Cook County Commissioner Josina Moria, Cook County College Teachers Union-Local 1600, former Second Ward Alderperson Peter Braithwaite, former Evanston Mayor Steve Hagerty, former Evanston Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl, Fifth Ward Council member Delores Holmes, William Stanford, former chief financial officer of Evanston Township High School and before that, finance director for the city, Nina Kavin, co-founder of Dear Evanston.
In the 9th Ward:
Geracaris is a first-generation immigrant from Argentina, who has lived and worked in Evanston for 29 years. Geracaris graduated from Northwestern University with a degree in mechanical engineering and currently works at the university as the senior network systems engineer in the Kellogg School of Management, according to information from his website, http://juangeracaris.com .
He is a founding member and current vice president of Evanston Latinos, a local non-profit organization formed to help Latino families during the pandemic. He is a former Oakton School PTA Vice President, a member of Next Steps Evanston planning committee, and member of the city’s Skate Park Advisory Board. He also serves as a board member for Next Steps Evanston, a local non-profit group focused on providing equity and anti-racism training for District 65 families and guardians.
Geracaris lists Evanston Mayor Daniel Biss and City Clerk Stephanie Mendoza as supporters on his web site. Like Gregory, he decided early on not posting supporters list. Rather “my supporters are my friends and neighbors,” he said
Kathelyn “Kathy” Hayes:
Hayes a Is a lifelong resident of Evanston with a strong background of government service at the County level, including a 14-year stint at John H. Stroger Hospital where she was an administrative analyst, responsible for the oversight and administration of the Medication Assistance Program. From 2003 to 2006, she served in the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office. She began public service in 1988 with Township of Evanston as a General Assistance case manager, according to information on her website, https://hayes4evanston.com
Her supporters include former Cook County Commissioner Larry Suffredin, former 9th Ward Alderperson Cecily Fleming, former NAACP President and civil rights advocate Bennett Johnson, former NAACP President George Mitchell, former Township Human Resources Manager Valerie Tatum-Wideman.
Fleming gives reasons for her choices
Cicely Fleming, whose 9th Ward seat Geracaris and Hayes are bidding to fill in that ward — and the only Council member to run unopposed in the 2021 municipal election — is backing Hayes to succeed her in her ward — and Cannon in the 2nd.
Fleming took issue with the mayor’s suggestion that Harris and Geracaris closer fit the need for Council members who are more “inclusive and collaborative, and people who can work with everyone.”
On Hayes, for instance, “I’ve never seen her and never heard anyone talk about her presenting in a way that wasn’t, you know, calm and respectful,” she said. “So I think to paint her in that picture for people who don’t know her is really unfortunate.”
Fleming said when she first met her, Cannon was advocating for Housing First, a homeless advocacy group.
She recalled that when they first talked they weren’t in agreement but continued to have a conversation. “So you have to respect that, even if you don’t agree with somebody that they can continue to have a conversation with you about it,” she said.
On the Council, “a lot of the work can be thankless. It’s (the service) is not about notoriety. You have to bring a certain feeling for helping people. I think what I’ve learned, what I’ve seen in Darlene, is that she’s done a lot in the community without trying to get notoriety. She kind of launched her own food pantry for some time. She’s done a ton of support with our seniors. I mean, even folks like Betty Ester and folks like that, who are long time Council attendees, Darlene would pick them up and bring them to city council. She would make sure they got signed up for the Zoom when we were back on Zoom. And she would deliver baskets of food when we had the pantry for the city of Evanston and pick up food. And so while that’s not something you’d be necessarily doing on the City Council, to me that shows a caring for the community.”
She noted Hayes’s experience at different levels of government, including a stint at John H. Stroger Hospital where she was an administrative analyst, would be a valuable addition to the Council. She noted that Hayes started her career at the township as a General Assistance program case manager, working with some of the city’s poorest residents, “an ideal place to really understand the needs of our citizens.”
The Democratic Party of Evanston held informative interviews, questioning candidates on a wide range of issues in the municipal and school board races. (To view the interviews, go to the DPOE’s website, at evanstondems.com).
Both Cannon and Hayes are members of DPOE board of directors, joining other activists who have come on to the board in recent years, including current City First Ward Council member Clare Kelly.
Under the group’s bylaws, DPOE membership is open to any individual who makes a $40 donation fee or has contributed a certain amount of volunteer hours.
Candidates endorsed by the group may make mention of the DPOE endorsement on their campaign literature. They also may use the DPOE office to launch voter drives, stage canvasses and phone banks. Further, the organization encourages its members to volunteer for the campaigns of endorsed candidates. Candidate endorsements will also be shown on the DPOE web site and Facebook page, the group explained on its website.
Evanston Firefighters Local 742, meanwhile, has been the city’s most active employees group politically, lobbying against station closings and manpower reductions.