HARVEY | Napoleon Harris has come a long way from his days as a Dixmoor resident and prep football and basketball star at Thornton High School.
His athletic skills enabled him to play college and professional football, which produced the money he put into a pair of Beggar's Pizza franchises. Now, he has used his wealth to help him get elected to a seat in the Illinois Senate.
Harris on Tuesday was the apparent winner of the Democratic nomination for the legislative post being abandoned by state Sen. James Meeks, D-Chicago, who is retiring from politics to focus on his church in Chicago's Roseland neighborhood.
As of now, there is no Republican challenger in the Nov. 6 general election for the 15th District Senate seat.
Harris won a majority of votes in the Chicago and suburban Cook County portions of the district. Challenger Donna Miller, the wife of former state Rep. David Miller, won the Will County portion of the district.
A third candidate, South Holland Deputy Village Administrator Patricia Mahon, finished third in all three parts of the legislative district.
State Rep. Will Davis, D-Hazel Crest, a supporter of Miller, said voters in the district "wanted to be engaged" by a new legislative candidate. Harris was able to use his financial advantage to make his name known to voters, Davis said.
A study by the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform said Harris had $100,000 in contributions from business interests and $46,100 from individuals.
That compared to nearly $46,000 for Miller, of which $1,000 came from political parties and another $3,500 from labor unions. Mahon took in $27,800, with $14,350 coming from individuals.
The mood at Harris' campaign bash, held at his Beggar's Pizza restaurant at 369 E. 147th St. in Harvey, was boisterous.
Dozens of people could be seen standing outside. Among those inside with Harris was Robert Shaw, a former Chicago alderman and Cook County Board member.
At the Miller and Mahon campaigns, the mood was more somber.
People at the Heritage Center, 401 E. 162nd St., in South Holland, ate pizza from Aurelio's, while Mahon "decompressed" in a back room, said her campaign manager, Mike Nylen.
"This election was always going to center on how well voter turnout was in South Holland" where Mahon expected to get significant numbers of votes, Nylen said. "It seems like there was low (voter) turnout all over."