Waukegan Elects First African-American Mayor

Sam Cunningham, was elected Tuesday as the first African-American mayor of Waukegan. – SamCunningham4Mayor/Facebook

by Long Hwa-shu

Waukegan has elected its first African American mayor in a close race Tuesday that saw Sam Cunningham, long-time alderman, winning by a thin margin.

Cunningham, a Democrat, defeated Lisa May, an independent and fellow alderman in the largest city north of Chicago with a population of nearly 90,000 –  20 percent black.

According to the preliminary results, the vote was 4,623 to 4,333 – a difference of a mere 290 votes.

Both camps had campaigned hard, literally to the last hours of the election with volunteers knocking on doors and making calls to voters.

Cunningham took a lead from the beginning. As time went on, his winning streak continued. By 9:30 p.m. with all 47 precincts counted, Cunningham  became the obvious winner based on preliminary results.

Both camps had campaigned hard, literally to the last hours of the election with volunteers knocking on doors and making calls to voters.

While May, endorsed by the Sierra Club, had the support of women’s groups and others, Cunningham won the belated nod of Lake County Sheriff Mark Curran, County Board chairman Aaron Lawler, State Rep. Rita Mayfield, Congressman Brad Schneider, and Suzi Schmidt, former state senator and County Board chairman. Their endorsement may well have made a difference.

Cunnigham, 49, has been alderman of the 1st ward for 18 years. Significantly, his ward includes  downtown – while the county seat it has become all but a ghost town at night. During his campaign, he said he would redevelop the lakefront modeled after Chicago’s Navy Pier, though on a much smaller scale, to transform what he called a wasteland with empty buildings into a tourist attraction with stores, restaurants and housing.

He also stressed the need to rebuild the city’s infrastructure including resurfacing the main arteries and a sidewalk from Sheridan Road to the lakefront. He said he will appoint a deputy mayor or a chief of staff to handle the day-to-day operations, thus freeing him to handle external affairs such as seeking funds for the city and to lobby legislation in Washington and Springfield that will benefit the city.

New city clerk is Janet Kilkelly, and treasurer is John Schwab, both who ran unopposed.


2 thoughts on “Waukegan Elects First African-American Mayor

  • April 5, 2017 at 8:26 am

    Way to Go Sam! You did it!! May the Lord bless you and keep you, as you serve all the citizens of Waukegan well.

  • April 6, 2017 at 4:44 am

    Well deserved! Congratulations. I am sure he will be a great mayor for the City of Waukegan for years to come.


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