Despite rumors in the 20th Ward, Mayor Rahm Emanuel will not ask the City Council to appoint a replacement for convicted Ald. Willie Cochran (20) before the April 2 election, sources in his office said Monday.
But Emanuel has not ruled out replacing Cochran before the mayor leaves office May 20.
“We are evaluating our options and will do what is in the best interest of the city and the residents of the 20th Ward,” said Emanuel spokesman Matt McGrath.
With only a week to go to the runoff election, rumors that Emanuel might make a last-minute appointment to fill Cochran’s vacant seat are making the rounds, and prompted one concerned citizen to start a petition.
Gabriel Piemonte, former 5th Ward aldermanic candidate who failed to advance in the Feb. 26 election, started the Change.org petition Tuesday morning in hopes of thwarting any attempt from City Hall to interfere in the already tight 20th Ward race.
“I’ve seen quickie appointments in my experience,” said Piemonte, former editor of the Hyde Park Herald. “A month is definitely enough time to tear down buildings or get permits. It’s a real concern.”
So far, the petition has six signatures.
The concern that Emanuel might appoint an interim alderman before the electoin comes after Cochran pleaded guilty to wire fraud Thursday. Cochran’s conviction removes him from the City Council under state law.
Nicole Johnson and Jeanette Taylor are now vying the 20th Ward seat in the April 2 runoff.
A Chicago Crusader op-ed published Thursday speculated that the outgoing mayor was considering appointing Apostolic Church of God Pastor Byron Brazier to the interim seat. The op-ed questioned whether Emanuel might install an interim alderman to wrap up the Obama Presidential Library and other real estate deals.
Brazier told The Daily Line Tuesday he would not accept an appointment from Emanuel to finish the remainder of Cochran’s term.
“There was never any discussion about appointing me,” Brazier said.
However, Brazier, who had a brief stint as chief information officer at the Chicago Housing Authority in the early ’90s, did say a representative of the mayor called him for his recommendation about the now-vacant seat.
“I told them that the mayor should seat whoever wins April 2 early,” he said.
Brazier has not endorsed either Jeanette Taylor or Nicole Johnson.
“Either one will do an outstanding job,” Brazier said.
Neither candidate seemed fazed by the rumors.
Taylor said she was focused on wining the election “and becoming the elected alderman that the working families of the 20th Ward deserve.”
“I starved myself to keep Rahm Emanuel and his hand-picked school board from closing yet another Black public school. I’m not interested in any back-door deals Rahm’s trying to make on his way out,” Taylor said in a statement Tuesday afternoon.
Johnson asked Emanuel to allow the runoff election “to run its course.”
“Any attempt to play games with 20th Ward residents will be a slap in the face yet again,” Johnson said last week. “Let 20th Ward residents take a breath and look forward to our new alderman — whoever she may be — and not have someone shoved down our throats as a placeholder for no apparent reason.”