Updated 04/05/11 – 4:27 p.m.
CHICAGO (CBS) – Ald. Bernard Stone (50th) has represented the West Rogers Park neighborhood in the City Council for nearly four decades, but now, he is in the fight of his political life to keep his seat.
As CBS 2’s Susanna Song reports, Debra Silverstein, the wife of state Rep. and ward Democratic Committeman Ira Silverstein (D-Chicago) is running against Stone, and she has won the endorsement of Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel.
“Que sera sera. Whatever will be will be, you know?” Stone, 83, quoted the old Doris Day song as voters cast their ballots in the runoff election.
“I really feel the people of the 50th Ward are ready for change,” Silverstein said in turn.
In the February election, Stone won 4,143 votes, or 37 percent of the vote, compared with 3,763 votes, or 34 percent, for Silverstein. A third finisher, architect Greg Brewer, won 19 percent, or 2,095 votes.
On Tuesday, turnout at one 50th Ward polling place — the Daniel Boone Elementary School — was over 30 percent, higher than the expected 21 or 22 percent citywide for 14 aldermanic runoff elections in Chicago. That suggests voting could be slightly heavier than expected in the 50th Ward.
Stone announced his campaign for re-election just after Mayor Richard M. Daley announced he would not be seeking another term. Stone said in September that he was not ready for retirement because he was still “full of pee and vinegar.”
On Tuesday, his choice of words was less colorful, but Stone still expressed enthusiasm for his job.
“I love doing what I do. I love talking to people, I love listening to people, and I would be delighted to do it for four more years,” Stone said.
But while Mayor-elect Emanuel has backed incumbents in most of the aldermanic runoff elections, he has taken a different direction in the 50th Ward, giving both money and time to Silverstein.
Silverstein described Emanuel’s choice to support her as “terrific – very exciting. We’re going to have new aldermen there; a new mayor. I think that we can turn things around.”
Of Emanuel’s decision to support his challenger, Stone said he was “not so much surprised as I’m a little unsettled by it.”
“The reason I’m running this time is because I thought whoever was the new mayor was going to be, he’d appreciate my experience and my knowledge, particularly in the field of finance,” Stone said.
Emanuel has expressed he wants aldermen who are on his side, as he implements his agenda, including unpopular cuts to fix the city’s budget hole.
“Before I will support a candidate, incumbent or not, (I want to know), ‘Are you for changing both City Hall, both the fifth floor and the City Council?’” Emanuel said Monday. “‘Where are you on the goals I’ve set for the city and achieving those goals?’ If that’s the case, a number of incumbents have said they’re there.”
Stone was dismissive of the fact that Emanuel considers Silverstein worthy of his support.
“He gets his puppet to take orders,” Stone said.
“I’ve been called a puppet. I’ve been called nothing but a housewife. I’ve been called a lot of things,” Silverstein said. “My main priority is the people here of the 50th Ward.”
Stone won a special election for the 50th Ward seat in 1973, after Ald. Jack Sperling was appointed to a Cook County Circuit Court judgeship.
In 1987, he switched from the Democratic to the Republican Party and ran unsuccessfully for the Cook County Recorder of Deeds on a ticket with notorious former Ald. Edward Vrdolyak for county Circuit Court Clerk. Stone lost to Carol Moseley Braun in the 1988 election.
Stone also sought the Republican slating for mayor in a 1989 special election, when Mayor Richard M. Daley first ran for the office successfully. But Vrdolyak ended up being the nominee. In 1990, Stone went back to being a Democrat.
Stone also gained notoriety in the 1993, when he had a 2 1/2-foot metal wall built in the median strip of Howard Street between Kedzie and Francisco avenues. The wall kept cars and pedestrians from crossing Howard Street from Chicago into Evanston or vice versa.
At the time, a major shopping center with a Jewel, Target and Best Buy was under construction on the Evanston side of Howard Street, and Stone said he was concerned about extra traffic on the Chicago side, according to the Chicago Reporter. But Evanston city officials were furious, and after a court battle, “Bernie’s Wall” wall came down in 1994.
Stone announced last September that he would run for an eleventh term. In his announcement, he accused Mayor Daley of “abandoning ship” during a financial crisis by choosing not to run again.