Former allies vie for 3rd Ward post
When Pat Dowell was elected to the 3rd Ward alderman's post in April, she made sure to single out a key political ally who helped her campaign.
"Special thanks to state Representative Ken Dunkin, an early supporter who helped me in my efforts to deliver my message of change," Dowell said.
In the nine months since then, their once cordial relationship has soured, and they are now running against each other for the ward committeeman's job.
Their now-frosty relationship is a testament to how quickly political allegiances shift, as well as to the allure of Chicago's powerful ward committeeman posts.
According to Dunkin, he agreed to support Dowell's aldermanic campaign because Dowell said she would not run for committeeman.
At the time of the alleged deal, Dowell was running for alderman against 22-year incumbent Dorothy Tillman.
Dunkin said he would not have supported Dowell's campaign against a politician of Tillman's stature had he known she would renege.
But Dowell denies such a deal was ever made. To accuse her of reneging on anything, she said, is "patently untrue."
"He asked me not to run for [committeeman] and I was unable to oblige him. At the time he asked me about that, I was in the middle of my aldermanic campaign and wasn't thinking about the committeeman election," Dowell said.
Dunkin, when told of Dowell's statement, said: "That is a bald-faced lie and I will testify to that in court,"
Dunkin went on to say that Dowell's decision to run was greedy and that she wanted to be "validated by the people downtown," in reference to City Council.
Despite the feud, both candidates say their priority is to serve the 3rd Ward, which is centered in the South Side's Grand Boulevard neighborhood.
Dowell feels the influence and power she would gain as a committeeman would help her to better serve the 3rd Ward. Ultimately the ward would suffer with Dunkin in the position because of his additional responsibilities as a sate representative, she said.
The committeeman is the Democratic Party's ward leader, and often controls much of the political power in the ward.
"I am the closest elected official to the people, I'm the first line of contact and I provide more direct service to the residents of the ward," Dowell said. "His focus is more regionalâ€¦as committeeman he won't just be focused on the 3rd ward, he'll be focused on five or six different wards, and I think that impacts his ability to really deliver."
Dunkin said citizens are better served by a committeeman who is not the alderman because it "allows for a greater system of checks and balances."
The election will be held Feb. 5.
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