Incumbent Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel is going to have to labor a bit extra for the next six weeks if he hopes to continue to occupy that legendary office. The iconic big city “boss”, Richard J. Daley held sway for 21 years before dying in office. Son Richard M. beat pops by a year to become the new record holder. There have been other interesting, incompetent or just fascinating characters since Richard J’s one-man-show.
There was Jane Byrne, the only female to park behind the mayor’s desk. She was a huge Kennedy supporter and a protégé of Richard J. Daley. To this day, she holds the record for the largest margin of victory by a Chicago mayoral candidate. But she lost her next time around to the wonderfully likable, charismatic and tax-filing challenged, Harold Washington.
The former U.S.Representative couldn’t go six blocks without stopping for pizza, and once served 36 days of jail time for failing to file his taxes for God knows how many years. Washington felt the sting of racism from his WW II service through his days at Northwestern School of Law. Like the elder Daley, he died in office. He actually collapsed while sitting at his desk in 1987 after suffering a massive heart attack. He was 65-years-old.
So, Rahm Emanuel is just the latest lighting rod to attract attention to the office that has been held by a Democrat since 1931. The former White House Chief of Staff for Barack Obama left the administration to run for Chicago mayor. He won on his first try in 2011. For many Chicago residents, not worth a million dollars, it’s been a downhill slide since. Emanuel is highly disliked and distrusted by a goodly segment of the electorate.
He’s considered the mayor of the ‘one percent’ with a campaign account filled with $13.6 million from an estimated 100 donors. In the just completed Tuesday mayoral primary, his closest competitor, Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, could claim but $1.4 million in contributions. Nonetheless, Garcia held the incumbent to under the 50% plus one, of the vote required in the mayoral election face-off. Not even the high-profile, enthusiastic endorsement of the president could push Emanuel over the top. He was fairly close at 45%, while Garcia took 34% as runner-up. These totals forced an April 7 runoff between the top two finishers. The election is non-partisan, so the winner of the April match-up is Chicago’s next mayor.
A dozen different pre-primary polls had Garcia’s numbers ranging from 16% to 26.5%. Only one poll gave Emanuel the requisite 50% plus one vote; his own. The other polling services had him in the 40’s, so overall Emanuel poll numbers were pretty accurate. CBS Chicago reported that Garcia is feeling pretty good about his chances. He reportedly tweeted, “This win proves that a movement of people like you can beat a political machine backed by billion-dollar corporations. On to April 7th.”
Alderman Robert Fioretti gathered 7% and a former Washington aide named “Dock” Watts, who loves running, garnered a particularly low-wattage total of 3% of the vote. Press reports have Fioretti laughing at the prospect of supporting the mayor, so it appears that his 7%, or a meaningful portion thereof, will go to Garcia. My abacus tells me that’s still only 41% of the total. Even the additional Watt’s 3% only hikes the total to 44%, not helping all that much.
So that leaves the 3rd place finisher, businessman, Willie Wilson, with 11% of the vote, as the possible swingman, whose supporters could determine the next mayor. Wilson is a 66-year-old African-American and multi-millionaire who got his start with a McDonald’s franchise directly awarded from founder Ray Kroc after Wilson approached Kroc and asked him for one. A Chicago Tribune profile paints Wilson as a self-made man with but a seventh-grade education. He’s definitely a wild card in terms of where his supporters are going. He’s a contradiction. A man of strong faith and work ethic, he’s nonetheless, not a great father by his own admission, being estranged from the four children from his first wife from time to time.
A biological son from an earlier relationship with a girlfriend who worked in one of his McDonald’s is bitter to the point of the son refusing to vote for his father. Mario Shannon told FoxChicago that “If he can’t take care of someone, how could he run for mayor of Chicago?” The son was referring to the fact that Wilson told him by phone that he never wanted to see him. He paid just a trickle of child support. Wilson insists he gave a lump sum to the mother in exchange for paying no more.
Wilson responded to a recent Chicago Tribune candidate questionnaire by writing that he would have to assess most of the problems after being elected. He did allow that the education system was in “bad shape” and that school board members should be elected, not appointed. He’s also for lowering taxes on businesses.
On the plus side for Emanuel, neither Karen Lewis, the African-American Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) President or Toni Preckwinkle, Cook County Board President carried out their intentions to run. Lewis was stricken with brain cancer last October and Preckwinkle, also an African-American, ruled out a run to work on county issues. She was considered to be the strongest challenger had she announced.
Garcia must rely on the support of the African-American voting bloc. He received an early endorsement from Karen Lewis. Up to this point, Preckwinkle has refused to endorse. That has to be unsettling to fellow board member, Garcia. Lewis could end up being the one individual who gives Garcia the keys to the mayoral kingdom. With leadership over 30,000 union members, she’s vital. If she can get a good percentage of her CTU teachers out to vote (as a profession, they’re notorious non-voters), then Garcia wins by double-digits.
Magic Johnson sidled into town mid-February with a $10 million dollar donation for the city’s summer jobs program and a solid endorsement for the mayor. I love Magic Johnson, his heroic HIV story and business successes (he’s worth a half-billion), but he sold out on this one.
Emanuel has all but single-handedly destroyed the public school system with over 50 school closings and thousands of jobs lost, especially in the black neighborhoods. He’s the definitive puppet of the enormously wealthy who want to control every power move the city makes. He’s a discredit to a city I called home for a decade and a monumental discredit to my political home, the Democratic Party.
Emanuel will continue to use his millions to rip Garcia on TV. The commercials he ran before the primary often featuring high-profile blacks. Let’s hope the one-third of Chicago’s population recognizes the harm, originating with the mayor, that has befallen the African-American population, particularly Emanuel’s education policies.
Give this power-mad DINO his walking papers.
Raised rural & small town, then lived in N.Y., Chicago & LA. Widely traveled. Returned from world wandering to pursue media life of anchorman/reporter and major, medium and small market talk radio. Highly active in politics. Once worked as orderly & security in Mens Lock Ward for the Criminally Insane at a state institution. Much more rational population than current Teapublicans. Great concern for country run by and for the extreme wealthy. The inhumane current running through this country has no precedent in modern history.
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