February 14, 2017

After Obama Endorsement, Donations Pour in for Fourth Ward Alderman Candidate Sophia King

Since receiving an endorsement from Barack Obama, donations to Sophia King’s campaign in a special election for the Fourth Ward Alderman seat have drastically increased. 

As of February 10, King had raised $196,380 for her campaign to retain her current position. King was appointed Fourth Ward Alderman last April.

The King campaign brought in over $30,000 in the week following the endorsement from Obama. Donors include the Chicago Park District board president, United Airlines general counsel, and University of Chicago surgeon and former Chicago Bear Gregory Primus. 

King faces four opponents in the February 28 special election—Ebony Lucas, Gerald Scott McCarthy, Gregory Livingston and Marcellus Moore Jr.—none of whose fundraising comes remotely close to King’s almost $200,000. All other candidates’ combined fundraising barely reaches half of what King has been able to raise this election cycle. Lucas is the closest in fundraising with about $40,000 raised, according to the Illinois State Board of Elections. 

$200,000 in donations is not unusual for campaigns in this area of Chicago, especially when it comes to incumbents. 

When King’s predecessor Will Burns ran for and ultimately won his second term as Fourth Ward Alderman in February 2015, his campaign expenditures totaled over $250,000. Over the course of Burns’s campaigns for alderman, 91 percent of total Fourth Ward donations went to him, leaving a meager 9 percent for the opposition, according to the Hyde Park Herald. Burns resigned from the position to take a corporate job at Airbnb last April. 

In the Fifth Ward’s 2015 aldermanic election, incumbent Leslie Hairston had $134,158 in her campaign chest, far exceeding any of her challengers. This helped her hold on to the Fifth Ward position. 

In 2015, current 11th Ward Alderman Patrick Daley Thompson raised a “relatively modest” $164,000 between his aldermanic and Metropolitan Water Reclamation District campaigns, according to Chicago magazine.

Though wards may seem small in the grand scheme of city politics, the money needed to run an effective campaign is not. A Fifth Ward mailer in 2015 cost about $15,000, according to the South Side WeeklyDNAinfo writes that Burns spent over $20,000 on polling in the final two months of his re-election campaign in the same year. The ability to pour funds into those kinds of campaign functions can give a candidate a sizeable advantage, as it did to Burns and Hairston. 

Whether King’s leap in funding will help her secure her own victory later this month remains to be seen at the ballot box, but the history of the Fourth Ward is on her side.