Ald. Leslie Hairston, who has represented the 5th Ward on the City Council since 1999, announced last week that she would not seek reelection, continuing a significant rate of turnover that will reshape the 2023 municipal elections.
Hairston, long-known for her independence, says that after 24 years in office, she is ready for a new challenge.
“It is time,” she said. “24 years in this job, and 30-plus years in government, it’s time for the next chapter.”
Hairston is one of many City Council members who have either announced they will not seek reelection or been forced out of office via criminal indictment in recent years.
The latter group includes former 11th Ward Ald. Patrick Daley Thompson, who was convicted of lying to federal bank regulators and filing false tax returns. He was replaced by Nicole Lee earlier this year.
Ald. Carrie Austin, who represents the 34th Ward, was indicted on bribery charges last year, and announced she will retire from the City Council.
Ald. Michele Smith left office earlier this year, and the efforts to name her successor continue.
Ald. Harry Osterman, James Cappleman and George Cardenas all announced that they will not seek reelection, while Ald. Sophia King, Raymond Lopez and Roderick Sawyer will all be running for mayor this winter.
Hairston, who represents South Shore and Hyde Park, has not hesitated to break ranks with the three mayors she served under, as she was one of just five aldermen who said no to privatizing the city’s parking meters in 2009.
“I was equally feisty with all three (Mayors Richard Daley, Rahm Emanuel and Lori Lightfoot),” she said. “My commitment is to the people who elected me.”
Hairston has not yet decided whether she will endorse a replacement on the City Council, and also demurred when asked whether she would support Lightfoot’s reelection bid. Whatever comes next, she says she has plenty of options, and is looking forward to exploring them.
“I am leaving because it is time,” she said. “I’m an intelligent woman with a lot of options.”