Tom Tunney will not be running for mayor

From Crain’s, “All Chicagoans deserve a mayor “who will wake up every day with the energy to make Chicago the best place to live, work and raise a family.” He added, “Like everyone else in Chicago, I look forward to listening to the mayoral candidates’ vision for this great city.”

Tunney’s apparent decision comes just hours after U.S. Rep. Jesus “Chuy” Garcia ended weeks of speculation and formally declared his candidacy. In Tunney’s case, sources close to the alderman have told Crain’s that one impediment was obtaining the thousands of signatures needed to secure a spot on the ballot. In addition, while Tunney reportedly believed he could raise the money needed, he has expressed considerable ambiguity in conversations with colleagues about whether he wanted to undertake such a task at this point in his life.

With Tunney out and Garcia in, the field of major candidates challenging Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s bid for a second term appears to be complete.

The race is undeniably crowded. Even so, many City Hall watchers had observed that Tunney would have had a lane more toward the center of a field populated with several more left-leaning contenders. As a longtime small business owner, having owned and operated the popular Ann Sather restaurant in Lake View since 1981, many believed Tunney could be the type of candidate the business community could coalesce behind.

Garcia, meanwhile, comes to the race with a decidedly more progressive record—a fact that will complicate his bid for the city’s top job, since his fellow progressive, Cook County Board commissioner Brandon Johnson, has already locked up several key labor union endorsements in his bid to oust Lightfoot.

Tunney, one of the first openly gay elected officials in Illinois history, was also thought to be a possible foil to the mayor, who herself is Chicago’s first openly gay mayor.

With Tunney bowing out, the candidates widely seen as occupying turf to the right of the mayor are Paul Vallas and Willie Wilson.

In August, Tunney announced he would retire from the City Council when his term ends in May.

Tunney was among the first aldermen to endorse then-candidate Lori Lightfoot’s mayoral campaign in 2019, helping her shore up support along the north lakefront. In turn, he was named chair of the powerful Committee on Zoning, a post that comes with influence over development in the city and a budget to hire additional staff.

Tunney has been seen as a reliable Lightfoot ally but didn’t always support her agenda, including voting against her 2023 budget and criticizing the mayor ahead of his retirement announcement, telling the Sun-Times Lightfoot is “somewhat divisive” and “vulnerable” in her re-election campaign.

First appointed alderman in 2002 by former Mayor Richard M. Daley to replace the retiring Ald. Bernie Hansen, Tunney became Chicago’s first openly gay City Council member.

The owner of the Ann Sather restaurant chain, Tunney, 67, previously served as the head of the influential Illinois Restaurant Association and holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Illinois and master’s in restaurant management from Cornell University.

He has been a reliable pro-business voice on the City Council and, if he had run, would have looked to translate that background into campaign backing from the real estate development and business communities.

Despite his pro-business bona fides, Tunney fought the Ricketts family, owners of the Chicago Cubs, for much of his council tenure over their redevelopment plans in surrounding Wrigleyville; his opposition to taxpayer support to revitalize Wrigley Field, and the number of night games and concerts at the iconic stadium.

Tensions came to a boil in 2019 when the Ricketts family wrote an op-ed denouncing Tunney’s reign as alderman about a month before his re-election. (The alderman penned a response the next day.) Despite the Ricketts’ opposition, Tunney coasted to a win with 64% of the vote.

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