By DASCHELL M. PHILLIPS and JEFFREY BISHKU-AYKUL
State Rep. Christian Mitchell (D-26) won with a slim lead over challenger Jay Travis in Tuesday’s election.
Mitchell and a group of more than 50 supporters — including Ald. Will Burns, state Sen. Kwame Raoul (D-16) and Sen. Dick Durbin — convened Tuesday night to watch election results pour in at Bronzeville hot dog joint H Dogs, 4655 S. King Dr.
Mitchell arrived shortly before 8:30 p.m. to cheers and applause from the group, who snacked on hors d’oeuvres under the din of funk beats and TVs broadcasting WGN’s coverage of the Illinois primary.
“I don’t get involved in many primaries. But I respect him,” Durbin told the Herald, adding that he wasn’t acquainted with Mitchell’s opponent but “wanted to stay on his side.”
Meanwhile, teachers and community members filled Room 43, 1043 E. 43rd St., little by little each passing hour, wearing blue shirts that read “Say Jay.” They chattered among themselves only raising their heads to yell and clap when they saw Travis’s name and the names of the other candidates they were in support of on the local news station that was projected onto a large white wall in the restaurant.
Moments later as Travis walked into Room 43 wearing a pink dress with a silver brooch and around an accent wall covered with campaign posters, her supporters cheered and chanted “We say Jay!” She hugged Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis, who was sitting at a table in the front of the room, and then went on to greet others.
Mitchell won with 52.62 percent of the vote, or 4,790 votes to Travis’ 4,313 votes – a 477-vote margin.
“We’re in a strong position,” Mitchell told the Herald shortly before 9:30 p.m., cautioning however that all the ballots needed to be counted first.
Wendy Walker Williams, executive director of the South East Chicago Commission, was also there to show her support.
“I think that Christian is independent, and I think he’s probably going to think about what is his passion, and he’ll follow it,” she said. “So if his passion is going to Congress — you know, who knows?”
Travis described the race as a nail biter and said this was the race to watch.
“People throughout the district care about this race,” Traivs said. “They want to send someone to Springfield who has the interest of the constituents and not the machine and saturated corporate interests.”
Travis said organized people against the machine and corporate interests built her race.
Travis said, “This campaign was built on the issues [of] strong schools, economic and job opportunities, protection of retirement and security of longtime community stakeholders.”
Mitchell will face Republican nominee Coby Hakalir in November’s general election.