43rd Ward Hopefuls

Candidates share their qualifications and plans at Forum in Parker’s Harris Center


Timmy Knudsen, the incumbent, speaks to the school


The Forum

On the evening of Wednesday, January 11, in the Harris Center, where Upper School Student Government candidates will debate in May, an alderperson candidate forum was held for Chicago’s 43rd Ward. The forum welcomed all six candidates for the 43rd Ward alderperson election. The municipal election will take place on Tuesday February 28 with the runoffs scheduled for Tuesday April 4.

Timmy Knudsen is the current alderperson and he is running for reelection this year. He was appointed by Mayor Lori Lightfoot in September 2022 after alderperson Michelle Smith retired. The other candidates are 43rd ward native and president of the Sheffield Neighbors Association Brian Comer, lawyer and civil servant Rebecca Janowitz, former legislative assistant to Congressman Tony Cardenas Steve Botsford, Executive Vice President and Partner of Hawthorne strategy group and community leader Wendi Taylor Nations, and LaSalle Local School Council (LSC) vice chair and after school program facilitator Steven McClellan.

One at a time, each candidate was welcomed into the Harris Center for about 12 minutes. They were then given several questions to answer in one to two minutes and then a round of speed questions for short answers. Moderators asked about budgeting, public safety, schools, housing and climate change.

The event was hosted by 43rd Ward Democratic Committeeperson and former Parker parent Lucy Moog, along with Indivisible Lincoln Park/Lakeview and DePaul Democrats. Moog has been the 43rd Ward Democratic Committeeperson since her election in 2016. 43rd Ward Democrats use grassroots political organization and other community initiatives to educate about local qualified democrats and help them get elected.

Indivisible is a national political organizing network formed after Trump’s election to try to combat his and the Republican Party’s agenda. Paul Kendrick and Michelle Hoppe Villegas from Indivisible Lincoln Park/Lakeview also hosted the event and moderated questions for candidates.

Joseph Valliquette, president of DePaul College Democrats, was also a host and moderator. Valliquette noted that he was working on increasing his organization’s involvement in local politics.

Junior Audrey Fuder and senior Rania Jones had reached out to Moog beforehand and were able to help at the event. Jones managed the Zoom and Fuder took photos. “I am really thankful for the opportunity I had to participate in the 43rd Ward Aldermanic Forum this year,” Fuder said.

Attendees had to enter through the Webster doors and also needed to present identification to be scanned by a security guard before going into the building.


Timmy Knudsen

Timmy Knudsen, the incumbent alderperson, is currently the youngest member of the city council at 32 years old and the first openly gay 43rd Ward representative. He was inaugurated on September 21, 2022 after Mayor Lori Lightfoot appointed him to the position for the remainder of Michelle Smith’s four year term ending in May 2023.

After growing up in Wheaton, Illinois, Knudsen graduated from both college and law school at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He is a practicing attorney and has lived in the 43rd ward since law school. Knudsen serves as the Chairman of the Chicago Zoning Board of Appeals as well as Chairman of the 43rd Ward Judicial Candidate Review Panel.

Knudsen’s priority for budgeting is public safety for both the city and the ward. He hopes to expand the police staff and fund equipment such as cameras. Knudsen mentioned his relationship with local police and how he helped assist with Parker’s safety measures in response to online hate last month.

At the forum, Knudsen demonstrated his connections to local schools by saying he had been inside of Lincoln Park High School (LPHS) and Parker in the previous three weeks.

When asked about his plans relating to the environment, Knudsen highlighted two ordinances he is working on. The first relates to promoting and supporting the use of electric vehicles (EVs). The second is an anti-idling ordinance, the idea of which he credited to a Parker student he had spoken with while visiting the school.

Knudsen has worked on issues of housing with the Chicago Chamber of Commerce and is dealing with rent prices being high.

The first issue that motivated Knudsen to become politically involved was marriage equality.


Brian Comer

The second candidate was Brian Comer who is currently serving in his third term as president of the Sheffield Neighbors Association. In this position, he plans events and helps organize support for zoning proposals and other local improvements. An alum of Oscar Mayer Magnet School, he has lived in the ward for four decades and worked as a “renewable energy developer and integrated business executive” according to Block Club Chicago.

Comer said his budget priority would be to reform the police department. According to him, major sums of money go to the “top brass” and he would like to reallocate it to beat cops and mental health resources. Former mayor Rahm Emmanuel closed half of the city’s mental health clinics and Comer believes something must be done about this lack of an adequate mental health resource system for the city.

Comer identified crime as the greatest issue in Chicago right now, citing a 2000 officer deficit. He believes the city should double down on programs that will increase the number of police officers. Comer mentioned a program at DePaul University that offers financial aid to students if they will serve in the Chicago Police Department for four years after graduating. “You have to think big moving forward,” he said at the forum. 

In contrast to Knudsen who was appointed by Lightfoot, Comer criticizes her leadership of the city. On his website he described himself as completely independent of the mayor and former alderperson Michelle Smith and says he would be an alderperson “free of ties to the machine.”

Comer noted the inadequate physical condition of LPHS’s interior. He hopes to improve LPHS and other local schools in addition to schools in marginalized areas of Chicago. “We can lift up LPHS, but if we don’t lift up our South and West sides, we are failing everybody,” Comer said.

The first ordinance that Comer would like to pass is a Tax Increment Financing (TIF) reform. The first issue that motivated him to get involved was the socioeconomic inequality of Chicago.


Rebecca Janowitz

Rebecca Janowitz is an attorney and civil servant who has worked for President of the Cook County Board of Commissioners Toni Preckwinkle when she was the 4th Ward Alderperson. Janowitz has decades of experience working on and organizing for public safety, public education, and other matters in our city. She said that her recent focus has been creating reforms for people returning from prison.

Janowitz plans to use the budget to welcome and support women who come to the ward and other areas of Chicago for abortions. She also hopes to secure more funding for CPS where her grandchildren are currently enrolled.

Affordable housing would be another of Janowitz’s priorities as alderperson. “Affordable housing is not just the cost of the particular unit,” she said. Janowitz believes that effective affordable housing is connected to the infrastructure and accessibility of the neighborhood and she hopes to improve this as alderperson.

Janowitz’s approach to crime is to view it very broadly and think of how it can be prevented long term with more community engagement and reforms. She said that for many communities in Chicago, it is difficult to find legitimate employment so people must turn to gangs that hinder the public safety of Chicago.

When asked by the moderators if she had been to an LSC meeting, Janowitz replied “Oh dear god, I practically died in LSC meetings,” referring to her long time as an engaged public servant dealing with a myriad of problems facing public schools. 

The first issue she was motivated by was gun violence and the candidate she has most recently campaigned for besides herself is Preckwinkle.


Steve Botsford

Steve Botsford currently works for his father’s real estate holding company. He has previously played football at Notre Dame and worked as legislative assistant to Congressman Tony Cardenas on capitol hill in Washington D.C.. Botsford has also received a masters in economics from Georgetown University and an M.B.A. from Northwestern University. 

Botsford’s priorities for the budget revolve around public safety. He would like to support funding for detective units, mental health specialists, and beat cops.

Botsford believes that Selective Enrollment CPS high schools need to be expanded and other reforms should include expanded lunch programs and keeping the building open for more hours to support students. To deal with the issue of housing, he hopes to also support the expansion of the Accessory Dwelling Units (ADU) ordinance.

Infrastructure is also among Botsford’s focuses as believes there should be “no vacant storefronts” in Lincoln Park which he called the “economic engine of the city.” His first ordinance as alderperson would attempt to face the issue of vacant storefronts, notably by “bullying some of these landlords to accept lower rents.”

The first issue that motivated Botsford was economic growth.


Wendi Taylor Nations

Wendi Taylor Nations is a public affairs consultant and the former CFO of World Business Chicago. She was also endorsed by former Alderperson Smith. Nations has experience fighting for women’s rights in the ward and as a marketing executive, she helped grow support for the Affordable Care Act.

Nations plans to prioritize public safety with the budget. She was recently sexually assaulted at a transit stop and the perpetrator was never brought to justice. She hopes to get more cops on the streets and expand incentivization programs for officers. She wants to give officers two years after graduating from the police academy to establish residence in Chicago and she wants to continue incentivizing marines with housing.

“I would also fire the superintendent,” Nations said, referring to Superintendent of Chicago Police David Brown. “His strategies are not working.”

As a former CPS student and first generation college student, Nations is focused on improving Chicago’s education system through funding.

Nations additionally sees affordable housing as an important goal for the ward. She hopes to keep affordable housing in the ward and support public servants who need the housing. Nations also wants to deal with vacant storefronts.

To confront environmental issues, Nations hopes to support returning Chicago to its former status as a leader in environmental development. She also hopes to support reforms that work to get more cars off the streets.

The first issue that Nations was inspired to get politically involved by was women’s rights and more recently she has been motivated by public safety.


Steven McClellan

Steven McClellan is an alum and member of the LSC for LaSalle Language Academy. He is also a familiar face around Parker, having led after school programs for years. McClellan founded an organization called Youth Producers which facilitates after school programs for students across the city.

With the budget, McClellan hopes to fund recruitment of police officers and carefully utilize participatory budgeting funds. He intends to “figure out a way to prevent the crimes, train our current officers, and recruit.” McClellan believes they need more presence of police and other trusted officials on the streets, including himself, an avid walker.

As a longtime community representative on the LaSalle LSC, he is focused on improving schools in the ward. “Education is really important,” he said at the forum.

McClellan plans to assist with efforts to improve LPHS. He also wants to explore “how we share information between schools” and spread LSC funds across the city.

McClellan believes there is not enough affordable housing in the city especially given the high property taxes.

Pulling inspiration from other wards, McClellan hopes to create a neighborhood opportunity fund that helps businesses and welcomes new businesses to the ward. He believes it is important to “draw from the successes of other neighborhoods.”

McClellan and a friend created the second “green alley” in Chicago which is part of a greater initiative to creatively utilize vacant spaces while making an environmental impact.