The Chicago mayoral race may have led to a runoff, but Alderman Ed Burke just walked away with re-election despite facing criminal charges.
Burke is set to win Chicago’s 14th Ward with about 55 percent of the votes during Tuesday’s citywide election, which was the Democrat’s 13th election for alderman. March will mark half a century since Burke first began serving his majority-Hispanic ward on the city’s Southwest Side, which his father, Joe Burke, led as alderman before him.
Ed Burke is considered one of the most powerful politicians in Chicago. He also could face up to 20 years in prison. He was charged in January on a federal criminal complaint after an investigation involving recorded calls on his phone and reported federal surveillance. He is accused of steering business to his private law firm, Klafter & Burke.
This isn’t the first time Burke has survived a scandal. The alderman has been scrutinized for using taxpayer-funded bodyguards, changing City Council votes to help his law firm and even blaming a dead man for payroll irregularities in the Finance Committee he led. He also used his law firm to save President Donald Trump millions of dollars in taxes on Chicago’s Trump Tower.
Burke found himself again in hot water when the FBI raided his office late last year. He’s accused of extorting two owners of a Burger King in his ward by having the fast-food chain steer business to his law firm in exchange for remodeling permit approvals. It’s the same chain location where Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke fatally shot 17-year-old Laquan McDonald in 2014, leading to the officer’s sentencing earlier this year for second-degree murder.
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who decided to not seek re-election, called for Burke to resign after he was charged. But that didn’t stop the alderman from running again and then winning against two younger candidates.
“I really think he’ll end up in jail,” Tanya Patino, who ran against Burke, told the Chicago Sun-Times on Tuesday. “And the community will have no idea who represents them.”
Burke has said he’s not guilty of attempted extortion. Prosecutors have until May 3 to seek a grand jury indictment.