State house candidate Jeff Smith locked up endorsements from much of the political elite in his north Evanston neighborhood this week.

State house candidate Jeff Smith locked up endorsements from much of the political elite in his north Evanston neighborhood this week.

Smith announced he has backing from three people who’ve been 7th Ward alderman — the newly elected Jane Grover, the immediate past alderman, Elizabeth Tisdahl, who’s now Evanston’s mayor, and Tisdahl’s predecessor, Steve Engleman.

In the neighboring 6th Ward, where Smith lives, he’s getting backing from newly elected alderman Mark Tendam and from one of Tendam’s opponents in this year’s race, Christopher Hart.

Smith also announced backing from his long-time next door neighbor and fellow attorney, Steve Gilford, a former president of the Evanston Township High School board.

Engleman, who also is Smith’s former law partner, showed he still cares with a $2,300 donation to Smith’s campaign earlier this year, and state campaign finance records show Tendam and Tisdahl have made smaller financial contributions.

Conspicuously absent from Smith’s north-Evanston love fest so far is former 6th Ward Alderman Edmund Moran. Moran, who is almost as loquacious as Smith, is reportedly still pondering entering the state house race himself.

Smith also has ties to many of those who endorsed him through his long involvement with the Democratic Party of Evanston.

Smith’s other cluster of endorsements came from Betty Sue Ester and Carol Balkcom, fellow board members with Smith on the Citizens’ Lighthouse Community Land Trust, an affordable housing group that after several delays finally managed to wrap up its first project earlier this summer — selling the single family home it had rehabbed.

Smith’s backing for affordable housing may also have helped win him the endorsement of 2nd Ward Alderman Lionel Jean-Baptiste, whose ward includes the land trust property.

Meanwhile, on the online fund-raising front, Smith, 52, is doing less well than his two much younger competitors.

Act Blue, the fundraising site for Democractic candidates, shows that Eamon Kelly, 29, has raised $33,530 from 175 donors, Patrick Keenan-Devlin has raised $10,199 from 77 donors, while Smith has raised $6,155 from 43 donors.

The Act Blue totals don’t reflect what the candidates may have raised offline, and on that score the state records show that as of June 30, the cutoff date for the most recent reports, Smith was in second place.

Robyn Gabel, the fourth candidate who has announced for the race to replace 18th District representative Julie Hamos, cancelled a scheduled interview with Evanston Now this week, saying it might be several more weeks before she’s ready to discuss her campaign. It also appears she has not yet filed campaign committee organizing papers with the state elections board.

The 18th District includes most of Evanston, the eastern portion of New Trier Township and parts of Chicago’s 49th Ward. Hamos is running for the U.S. House in the 10th District.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation


  1. Four legs good, two legs bad
    Today the US Postal Service delivered a letter from Friends of Jeff Smith Jeff Smith to the Historic Who Residence.

    After beginning the letter by addressing Mr. Who Knows by his first name, the writer says that Smith ‘is unafraid to challenge the status quo or political infrastructure’ and now is when ‘a grassroots campaign like Jeff’s must build support’.

    The letter is signed by Her Majesty Mayor Tisdahl, Lorraine Morton, four current Alderpeople (Wynne, Grover, and Jean-Baptiste, Tendam), and various other local political celebrities.

    It looks like the entire political infrastructure of Evanston is inviting me to join a ‘grassroots’ movement to challenge the status quo or political infrastructure. Orwell would be proud.

  2. Why the Selective Editing?
    Smith received many endorsements from south Evanston residents and officials including 3rd Ward Alderman Wynne; John Kennedy, 3rd Ward resident who headed Friends of the Civic Center; Brian Becharas, south Evanston resident who chairs the steering committee of Citizens for a Greener Evanston; Sue Lannin, a Rogers Park resident and one of the better-known environmental activists. Dick Peach, also a south Evanston resident, ran for school board and is a past president of the Evanston Chamber of Commerce.

    The list goes on.

    Omitting the endorsements that originate in south and central Evanston implies a geographic divide that does not exist among Smith’s supporters.

    1. The list
      Hi Libby,

      You are confused.

      The story deals with a list Jeff sent reporters of 13 people who had signed a letter of support for him.

      Of those 13, seven are from either the 6th or 7th ward in north Evanston.

      The story pointed out that cluster — and noted that the cluster includes many current and former aldermen and aldermanic candidates from those two wards.

      The story also dealt with a cluster of support for Jeff based around the affordable housing issue.

      Those were the two clusters of support that I noticed.

      The story did not say that Jeff has no support elsewhere in Evanston. And it is disingenuous of you to suggest that it did.

      Three of the five people you name — Becharas, Lannin and Peach — were not on his list of 13 signers. They appear instead on a list of 118 people who he claimed as supporters in his mass-mailing piece.

      If you’d care to go through that list and sort them by ward or by the issues they are known for supporting, I would be happy to publish the results of your effort.


  3. Is there no time for careful deliberation?
    It would be nice if our elected officials would restrain from endorsing candidates until after all petitions are filed and the candidates have had significant time to debate the issues.

    Madam Mayor and Alderman Wynne, Grover, Jean-Baptiste, and Tendam, atleast pretend that you’re open and fair minded enough to consider what other candidates are offering before telling the rest of us who we should vote for.

    Gerald McGrew
    “So I’d open each cage. I’d unlock every pen, let the animals go, and start over again.”

    1. won’t you be my neighbor?
      “Madam Mayor and Alderman Wynne, Grover, Jean-Baptiste, and Tendam, at least pretend that you’re open and fair minded enough to consider what other candidates are offering before telling the rest of us who we should vote for.”

      Right…we need open (enquiring) minds in our city government, not these people. It should also be noted that except for Jean-Baptiste, everyone listed above was part of the anti-tower crowd.

      I find it interesting that Smith is endorsed by the leadership of the Citizens’ Lighthouse Community Land Trust. Does Smith believe that this organization is well managed and is efficiently using its resources? Does Smith want affordable housing for low-income people in Evanston? This seems to contradict his position that Evanston already has too many people, and we should have a lower population density. Is affordable housing best achieved by letting developers build more houses, or by having the government regulate the price of housing? Does Smith favor affordable housing in the 6th and 7th wards, where the Central Street Neighbors live…or should it be confined to the 5th ward?

      I wonder…what has Smith ever done to create more jobs in Evanston? He has opposed development and population density, with the claim that there is no point building housing next to the CTA tracks if people don’t have jobs on the other end of the tracks. So what does he want? Has he ever favored or proposed a program that will create jobs?

  4. Jeff’s commitment to our community came before his candidacy
    My support for Jeff Smith’s candidacy preceded the vacancy in Illinois’ 18th District and flows from the many years I have witnessed Jeff’s extraordinary contributions to our Evanston community, his thoughtful attention to issues that are important to all of us, and his enlightened and civil discourse. I encouraged Jeff to formalize his lifelong commitment to public service by running for office and, of course, gladly count myself among Jeff’s many, early supporters.

    Jane Grover

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