Fil-Am seeks to topple top Chicago alderman

PINOY Newsmagazine/Philippine News
March 2007

Text and photo by Ted Regencia

CHICAGO — A Filipino American community leader moves closer to making history in Chicago.

Naisy Dolar captured 28.3 percent of the votes in the city’s 50th ward during the February 27 local elections, forcing the 34-year incumbent Bernard Stone into a run-off on April 17.

“We are a step closer to a whole new ward,” declared Dolar to a cheering crowd of supporters on election night. “It’s time for a change.”

According to local election rules, a candidate needs 50 percent plus one of the total votes cast to be declared the winner. Absent a simple majority, the top two vote-getters will go into a second phase of balloting.

Stone got 48.3 percent of the votes, giving him an advantage in the race. As the 34-year incumbent and the city’s vice mayor, he remains tough to beat. Stone, who is turning 80 this years, is also identified as a strong and long-time ally of the powerful Mayor Richard Daley, who just won re-election with an overwhelming majority.

A Dolar campaign insider, however, pointed out that 51.7 percent of the ward’s voters did not support Stone’s re-election bid, giving Dolar a window of opportunity for a come-from-behind victory. Still it remains an uphill battle.

“We have ignited the voters,” said Dolar as she tried to inject optimism in her campaign. “We’ve got tenacity, we’ve got guts and fire and we will never give up.”

Now, Dolar’s task is to make her call for change resonate among the majority of voters in her ward. She also needs to convince the supporters of her two other opponents, David Brewer and Salman Aftab, to return to the polls and switch their allegiance to her. And with her decision to stay positive during the campaign, she may have secured enough goodwill to win their support.

To boost her effort to knock-off Stone, Dolar also needs to raise enough campaign cash.

In her appearance at the 24th Annual Lunar New Year Celebration last March 3, Dolar made that pitch to the largest gathering of Asian Americans in Chicago, while highlighting the need for the Asian Americans to be represented in the City Council.

In all of these, Dolar’s grassroots campaign found an ally in the Chicago Tribune and Chicago Sun-Times, two major dailies who endorsed her.

“It’s rare for a first time candidate to sweep the endorsement of two major newspapers of the third largest city in the US,” Dolar said in an exclusive interview. “It sends a strong message that the people believe in me as a new kind of leader. I am honored. It’s awesome.”

In backing the neophyte candidate the Tribune said, “She has a broad platform for improving her city and her community, and she’s an energetic political newcomer. Dolar is endorsed.”

The Tribune added that Stone “seems to have lost some of the drive for the job.” “His opponents argue it’s time for a change, and they’re right,” it added.

Calling her “energetic”, rival publication Sun-Times declared, “The time is right for Naisy Dolar to become the first Asian-American alderman — and, at 34, the Council’s youngest member.”

Asked what kind of leadership style she wants to bring to the city council, Dolar said, “I want to have a model ward, where people have a say as to how to better address the issues of the community. I will not be afraid to put the people’s interests first.”

On the week the endorsements were released, Dolar’s leadership potential was already put to a test when a triple-murder case took place in her area, also known as West Rogers Park. A recent Christian refugee from Iran hacked his wife, mother-in-law, and sister-in-law to death.

“When I heard about it, I immediately checked with our [police] commanders,” said Dolar, whose husband Ben is a Chicago police officer. “I feel extreme sympathy to the family.”

She added the incident highlights “the need to address domestic violence” in her multi-ethnic community. “Many people deal with it, but do not talk about it. It’s another example of why there is a need to bring in city resources to my ward to educate people.”

Other legislative priorities include business development in her multi-ethnic community, as well as education, health and peace and order.

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