(CHICAGO) Ald. JoAnn Thompson (16th) has died, a source confirmed Tuesday morning.
Thompson, 58, had been hospitalized recently with heart-related ailment and had undergone surgery, the Chicago Sun-Times reports.
Her re-election campaign had been getting support from a Super-PAC, Chicago Forward, formed to support the re-election of Mayor Rahm Emanuel. That political action committee has selected 17 aldermen to support.
A Whole Foods grocery store has broken ground in her Englewood ward, one of the major developments of her tenure.
On the July 2014 day when ground was broken on that grocery, she recalled attending the International Council of Shopping Centers convention in Las Vegas six years earlier to urge retailers to take a chance on Englewood. She came away empty and despondent.
“Everything was fine until they said,’Where are you from?’ I said, “Chicago” and they said “What neighborhood are you from?’ When I said ‘Englewood,’ nobody wanted to be bothered with us.”
“It was such a sad day. I was crying out to God, saying, ‘What am I going to do? What can I do to bring things to my ward?’”
Until her death, Thompson had been fighting for survival in a race against a City Council colleague: Ald. Toni Foulkes (15th). The two incumbents were thrown into the same South Side ward under the new city ward map.
Foulkes, a member of the City Council’s Progressive Caucus, is almost certain to emerge as the frontrunner now in a race that includes four lesser known candidates. But, Foulkes didn’t want to talk about the politics after getting news of Thompson’s death.
“My heart, my love and my condolences go out to her family and her children. It’s overwhelming. It’s a colleague. We knew each others’ families,” Foulkes said.
“All I knew was that she was in the hospital. I didn’t know any details.”
Foulkes said she was forced to run against Thompson by necessity, but it was never a comfortable thing.
“We were always friends. Me running in the 16th Ward was never personal. It was because 40 percent of my ward was remapped into the 16th Ward,” Foulkes said.
Thompson was one of 17 incumbents in tough races to benefit from an outpouring of spending by Chicago Forward, the $2 million super-PAC created to re-elect Mayor Rahm Emanuel and strengthen his City Council majority.
Chicago Forward had blanketed the 16th Ward with direct mail pieces touting Thompson’s support for Emanuel’s plan to raise the city’s minimum wage to $13-an-hour by 2019 and her support for creating jobs in her impoverished South Side ward, in part, by bringing a Whole Foods to the food desert.
Before becoming an alderman, she had been a Cook County Jail officer, holding the rank of lieutenant.
Thompson was born Sept. 18, 1956, and had survived a period of being homeless in the early 1990s.
When she was elected to the council, she joined forces with Mayor Rahm Emanuel in cracking down on flavored tobacco. She had quit smoking in 2012 after 44 years.
“It only took me 44 years to find out that I was killing myself with smoking,” she said on the day she got a plaque for her efforts to prevent another generation of minority children from taking up the deadly habit.
“It was the hardest thing to do, to stop smoking,” she said. “Smoking for so long really took a toll on my health.”
© Copyright 2015 Sun-Times Media, LLC