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Mayor’s Candidate Takes Lead in Close Aldermanic Race

March 21, 1986

CHICAGO (AP) _ A candidate backed by Mayor Harold Washington had an unofficial 25-vote today lead in a hotly contested aldermanic race, and a victory would give the mayor his first chance to control the City Council.

″We are not declaring victory, but we are well on the road to victory,″ a jubilant Luis Gutierrez said late Thursday as 162 previously uncounted ballots gave him a slim lead over Manuel A. Torres in the 26th Ward aldermanic race.

The Chicago Board of Elections Commissioners will not proclaim aldermanic winners until next week, but both Gutierrez and Torres already have said court challenges and a recount are likely.

Circuit Judge Robert Dempsey was to hold a hearing today on whether votes cast after Tuesday’s regularly scheduled poll closing time should be counted.

The validity of several hundred ballots impounded by Dempsey and a write-in campaign by a third candidate also clouded the race’s outcome.

Late Thursday, Gutierrez had 5,239 votes, or 50 percent, to 5,214 votes, or 50 percent, for Torres. If neither candidate gains 50 percent of the majority plus one, a runoff election would be held April 29.

Write-in candidate James Blasinski, whose ballots were still being tallied, needed only 26 more votes to force Gutierrez and Torres into a runoff, elections board spokesman Tom Leach said.

Washington-backed candidates emerged from Tuesday’s elections with just two clear victories, and another mayoral supporter was favored to capture a runoff election April 29.

But adding Gutierrez to his bloc in the 50-member council would ensure the mayor the 25-25 deadlock he needs to take advantage of his tie-breaking vote.

Torres has the backing of Alderman Edward Vrdolyak, who fashioned the 29- member council majority that has thwarted the mayor’s programs and appointments since 1983, when Washington became the city’s first black mayor.

Noting the high stakes, one of Torres’ strategists, Keith Lesnick, said: ″This election is never going to be over with. It will go on until the next election.″

The votes from the 26th Ward’s final precinct were not counted Tuesday because poll judges did not feed the ballots into the elections board computer, instead delivering the sealed ballot box to the board office, Leach said.

The special aldermanic elections, which coincided with Tuesday’s primary voting in Illinois, were ordered by a federal judge for seven of the city’s 50 wards to increase minority representation in the council.

All seven of the newly elected aldermen will serve less than a year before facing challengers in the regularly scheduled 1987 elections, when Washington also will be up for re-election.

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