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Calumet City Ald. James Patton announces run for mayor, possible challenge to Thaddeus Jones

Calumet City 6th Ward Ald. James Patton announced Thursday he will run for mayor next year, becoming the first announced challenger to a possible reelection bid from incumbent Mayor Thaddeus Jones, who is also state representative.

Since he took office in May 2021, Patton, a longtime city official, has been one of the most outspoken opponents of the Jones administration. He challenged whether Jones could simultaneously be mayor and state representative, questioned the way Jones’ handpicked city engineering firm Farnsworth led the city’s contract selection process and said Jones urged Democrats to avoid using his business when he questioned how the mayor ran a City Council meeting.

“If elected, my administration will begin the process of healing the wounds caused by a reactionary and often divisive mayor,” Patton said Thursday. “The time for talking and conjecture is over. It’s time to get to work.”

Mollie Patton sat in the front row of her husband’s announcement, smiling and nodding her head as he spoke. A 41-year resident of the town, Mollie said she has seen businesses leave and knows her husband can improve the city for their two children, Lukas, 12, and James, 5.

James, in a pink button down with legos in hand, looked on while his brother told reporters he was excited for his dad.

“To keep the house clean and calm,” Lukas said when asked what his role will be in the campaign.

Jones all but solidified his eighth term as representative for the 29th Illinois House District last week when he won the Democratic nomination, as he currently does not face a Republican challenger. Jones also said he “is primed and ready to go” in an emailed statement Thursday when asked for comment about Patton’s announcement.

“My administration has worked tirelessly to foster an environment of diversity and create opportunities that allow residents to participate in the upward mobility of Calumet City,” Jones’ statement said. “Alderman Patton has been an ineffective and missing Alderman.”

Jones’ statement claimed Patton “holds the record of the most resident complaints against an Alderman” and “has the worst attendance record in the city council.”

Patton worked for and supported Jones’ predecessor, Michelle Markiewicz Qualkinbush, and said he tried to start fresh with the new mayor when Jones took office in 2021. But the two have butted heads with Patton regularly voting against matters supported by Jones.

Patton said his opposition triggered Jones to send a letter to colleagues in Springfield telling them to avoid using Patton’s consulting business.

“There is probably going to be a lot of things said about me and you just got to remember they are not true,” Patton said he told his son. “We expect that it’s going to be a brutal 10 months. But it’s not going to stop me.”

Jones criticized Patton’s role as purchasing and personnel director for Qualkinbush, saying the administration “was overwhelmed with discrimination lawsuits, allegations of culturally insensitive actions by employees, lack of inclusion, and lack of cultural diversity awareness.”

Patton said he is starting his race well before the February Democratic primary because he needs to create enough of a runway to meet voters to make up for a likely financial deficit between himself and Jones.

“I am confident that I am going to have the money that I need to run the race that I want to run,” he said. “That does not necessarily mean I am going to outspend Thaddeus. But I am confident in what I need and that I will be able to raise it.”

Patton said there are infrastructure projects that have been talked about and studied by city engineers for three years.

“We don’t need to have the engineers come and tell us how bad it is. We need to get to work,” Patton said.

A study conducted in September 2022 by Farnsworth Group showed several of the stormwater pumps were faulty and should be replaced or upgraded, the Daily Southtown reported. There is no indication the faulty pumps were fixed, the paper’s investigation concluded. One year later, a massive rain event lead to hundreds of homes being flooded, but the city administration maintains the impact would not have been reduced if the pumps were fixed as recommended.

Patton also said there are fewer businesses open today than when Jones took office. He also said he was frustrated with how Jones runs the public comment at City Council meetings, which regularly include combative interactions with residents.

“My plan for this whole spring and summer and fall is to get out there and listen to what every resident has to say,” said Patton. “If I am lucky enough to be elected that is certainly the way I am going to govern.”

hsanders@chicagotribune.com