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Jen Thomas/MEDILL

7 a.m.: Jeremy Karpen greets potential voters outside polling places in Logan Square

On Election Day, a candidate runs – and runs – on adrenaline

by Jen Thomas
Nov 04, 2008

At 5 a.m., most people are nestled comfortably in their beds, trying to catch just a couple more hours of precious sleep before the sun rises, even on Election Day.

But Jeremy Karpen, his wrinkled green T-shirt at odds with the suit pants and dress shoes he’s wearing, has already been awake for several hours.
Karpen, running for state representative on Chicago’s Northwest Side, said he practically leaped out of bed when his alarm went off at 3 a.m. and he’s been running off adrenaline ever since.

“I feel fine. My stomach’s kind of weird, though,” said Karpen, 28, while he scrambled to get his half-dozen or so volunteers organized to pass out materials at polling places in the early hours of Tuesday morning.

The Green Party candidate has never run for elected office before. A therapist at Mercy Home for Boys and Girls, Karpen was inspired to run against three-term incumbent Maria Berrios, a Democrat, after he realized that many of the behavioral problems he was seeing at the home as a counselor were borne of bigger social problems.

“This is like a seven-month-long interview process for a job every day and now I have to convince everyone that I deserve it,” said Karpen, who has lived in Logan Square for four years.

Starting at 6:30 a.m., Karpen, fully dressed in his suit by then, went out to the polls and introduced himself to voters. As more and more passersby told him that they’d already cast their vote for the virtually unknown candidate, he made sure to keep his excitement in check.

“It’s nice to hear it anecdotally that they voted for me but I hope it really translates into actual votes,” Karpen said, holding a quickly diminishing stack of the 10,000 information cards he had printed for Election Day.

Running in collaboration with fellow Green Party candidate Omar Lopez, a congressional hopeful in the 4th District, Karpen is touting local change in Logan Square, a community that has seen shifting demographics as areas like Wicker Park and Humboldt Park become city hotspots.

“The single biggest change I can bring is actual independent leadership, which is leadership that is not influenced by the money that is coming into the campaigns because [my] money is just coming from regular people,” said Karpen, whose campaign is focused on affordable housing, healthcare for all, education funding reform and mass transit.

Volunteer Jonathan Rhodes, 29, a downtown resident who votes based on candidates and not party affiliation, said he got involved with Karpen’s campaign because he wanted to help a grassroots campaign succeed.

“It’s one of the most exciting things about Illinois, that a third-party has a foothold in the state. So I think that I’d be happy to see the Green Party have some power in Chicago because it would counter-balance the one-party power that’s here,” Rhodes said.

Win or lose, Karpen will be glad to have the election behind him.
"I figured that no matter what, come tomorrow, either I will have won or I won’t and I can at least move on a little bit. Seven months of thinking about the same thing all the time and stressing about the same thing over which I have no control is a little frustrating," he said.