In another chapter of Chicago's raucus "Council Wars," both Mayor Harold Washington and his entrenched Democratic Party opponents claimed victory tonight in special primary elections in seven redrawn wards.
Confusion reigned, with unofficial vote tallies indicating that perhaps neither Washington nor his arch-rival, Alderman Edward R. Vrdolyak, had clearly won enough of the redrawn inner city wards to establish unchallenged control of the fractious 50-member council and the city's patronage fiefdoms.
The outcome in at least one ward appeared headed for the courts, while in another key ward it appeared the vote leader would face a runoff election next month.
Amidst all the Windy City confusion, clarity marked the Democrats' major statewide primary contest. Former U.S. senator Adlai Stevenson III easily held off token opposition to win the Democratic nomination for governor, setting up a rematch of his bruising 1982 campaign against incumbent Republican Gov. James R. Thompson, who was unopposed for nomination to an unprecedented fourth consecutive term.
In Chicago, Vrdolyak, the Cook County Democratic chairman whose 29-member, white-dominated City Council majority was threatened by the special elections, emerged from the balloting with clear claim to three seats, giving him 25 votes in the council, one short of a majority. It appeared Washington had captured two wards.
The race in the predominantly Puerto Rican 26th Ward appeared headed for the courts, with Washington and Vrdolyak late tonight accusing each other of "stealing" the election.
In the predominantly black 15th Ward, Alderman Frank Brady, a white and Vrdolyak ally, may face a runoff next month if he fails to pull more than 50 percent of the vote.
Vrdolyak's candidate in the pivotal 26th Ward declared victory even though incomplete returns showed he had 47 percent of the vote to his opponent's 53 percent. Undeterred, Manual Torres called himself "the clear winner" at a news conference several hours after the polls closed. "I can only lose if they steal it," he said.
His opponent, Luis Gutierrez, who is allied with Washington, said, "We're winning . . . but we don't know."
The special elections were set up when a federal judge ordered the seven wards redrawn to increase Hispanic and black representation on the council.
Washington candidates Jesus Garcia and Percy Giles claimed victory in the 22nd and 37th wards, respectively.
Vrdolyak candidates were well ahead in the 18th Ward, where Alderman Robert Kellam, a white, appeared to have won; in the 25th, where state Rep. Juan Soliz won easily, and in the 31st, where Alderman Miguel Santiago was reelected.
Ballots in 43 inner-city precincts that remained open two hours after the regular 7 p.m. (CST) poll-closing time were impounded, pending a court fight Wednesday over the late closing.
Downstate, Rep. Melvin Price (D-Ill.), 81, apparently survived the toughest battle of his career, winning renomination for a 22nd term in the 21st Congressional District. With all precincts but those in his hometown of East St. Louis reported, Price had a 2,000-vote lead over his challenger, Madison County auditor Pete Fields, 40, who had made age an issue in the race.
In two Chicago congressional districts, Democratic Reps. Cardiss Collins and Gus Savage appeared to be holding off strong challenges. Partial returns indicated Collins was ahead of Alderman Danny K. Davis in the 7th district and Savage was leading community activist Al Sampson in the 2nd district. The count in the 2nd district, however, was going slowly.
In another statewide contest of interest, Chicago steel executive George Ranney and state Rep. Judy Koehler were running almost even for the GOP nomination to oppose Sen. Alan Dixon (D-Ill.), the all-time Prairie State vote getter.
Stevenson took more than 80 percent of the statewide Democratic vote on a day marked by drenching spring rains that contributed to the lowest primary election turnout in more than a decade, election officials said.
In a televised encounter late tonight, Stevenson and Thompson locked horns over the coming campaign but informally agreed to debate.