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Your Guide to Chicago’s 2011 Mayoral Candidates
Photo: Mark Wachtler
Today we welcome Mark Wachtler as our guest blogger. Mark s a former elected official and a veteran of many independent political organizations. From Chicago’s legendary Solidarity Party to Ross Perot’s UWSA and Reform Party, Mr. Wachtler’s experience spans the political spectrum. Combining his creative writing style with a lifetime of street-level campaign experiences, Mark Wachtler gives you a unique glimpse into Chicago Politics. Mark can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
With the field now set for the upcoming February 2011 Chicago mayoral election, it’s time to recap the candidates and make some predictions. At first glance, I was surprised that for the first time ever, there isn’t a single viable White, non-Jewish candidate on the ballot. We seem to be headed into uncharted waters. The field is split between two factions – pro-Machine Democrats who are pretending to be reformers and political long-shots who truly are reformers.
With that said, here’s a quick summary of each candidate:
Carol Moseley Braun: Former U.S. Senator.
Gery Chico: Former Daley Chief of Staff, CPS President.
Danny Davis: U.S. Congressman.
Wilfredo De Jesus: Reverend at Humboldt Park Church, Zoning Board of Appeals Commissioner.
Miguel De Valle: City Clerk, former State Senator.
Rahm Emanuel: Former Congressman, Clinton Senior Advisor, Obama Chief of Staff.
M. Tricia Lee: Not a resident. She will be knocked off the ballot.
Tyrone Carter: Music producer, author.
Jay Stone: Didn’t file enough petition signatures. He will be knocked off the ballot.
Ryan Graves: City worker, pro-union.
Patricia Van Pelt Watkins: Community activist.
Fenton C. Patterson: Candidate is making no effort.
Frederick K. White: City employee. His platform is a watered-down version of business as usual.
Rob Halpin: Rahm’s tenant who won’t move out.
Tommy Hanson: Didn’t file required paperwork. He will be knocked off the ballot.
James T. Meeks: State Senator, Pastor of mega-Church.
Roland W. Burris: Current U.S. Senator (appointed), drafted as Mayoral candidate without his participation.
John Hu: Real estate broker, reformer, non-politician.
William Walls III: Community activist. Harold Washington/Jesse Jackson Democrat.
Howard Ray: Candidate is making no effort.
So, that’s the official list. For the life-long Chicago residents on the precipice of a new beginning, this is a less than impressive assortment of ‘business as usual’ career politicians and ‘not a chance in hell’ reformers. As unique as Chicago is however, we can’t simply anoint the ‘Rahm-inator’ our next Mayor and skip the election. For this Mayoral election has all the earmarks of becoming a mad-house and free-for-all. Let’s crunch the numbers, shall we?
First, let’s drop all the candidates who will either be knocked off the ballot or who appear to be on track to garner less than one percent of the vote. That would include Lee, Carter, Stone, Graves, Patterson, Halpin, Hanson and Ray. That leaves us with twelve potential Mayors. Since Chicago seems to always vote along racial lines, we’re already seeing the White, Black and Hispanic communities attempting to unite behind a single candidate. They know that if their race splits their vote between multiple candidates, it’ll doom them all. Another factor will be voter turn-out. For the sake of this exercise, let’s assume the voting demographic breaks out like this: White – 35%, Black – 30%, Hispanic – 25%, Asian – 5%, Other – 5%. I know those numbers are a little different than the 2000 census or previous elections. But this is no ordinary election. Now, let’s see how this might shake out.
Black candidates: Braun, Davis, Watkins, Meeks, Burris and Walls.
Hispanic candidates: Chico, De Jesus and Del Valle.
Asian candidates: Hu.
White candidates: White.
Jewish candidates: Emanuel.
For arguments sake, let’s say that the lesser-known candidates will be lucky to hit the one or two percent mark. That includes Watkins, Walls, De Jesus and White and leaves us with ninety-five percent of the vote to divide up between eight remaining candidates. And here’s where we make some big assumptions.
Assuming Braun will be the top vote getter in the Black community with Davis and Meeks picking up a respectable percentage and Burris being a non-factor, I’m going to break out the 30% Black voting block as follows: Braun 50%, Davis 25%, Meeks 20% and the remaining 5% split between the other candidates, with most going to Emanuel.
In the Hispanic community, Chico has the advantage of the Daley Machine. But don’t underestimate Del Valle. He was the first candidate to declare his candidacy, air a TV commercial, have a web site and Facebook page, and most importantly, the first and only candidate to pledge not to take campaign contributions from any companies that do business with the city. That promise alone gives him the right to claim the title of ‘reformer’ and distance himself from the rest of the ‘almost reformers’. The wildcard will be Emanuel’s ability to penetrate the Hispanic leadership and get them to side with Rahm. Of the Hispanic 25% block, I’m going to give Emanuel the benefit of the doubt and 20% of the Hispanic vote. That leaves Del Valle 40% and Chico 40%.
The Asian community is more of a ‘gimme’. I’m going to assume John Hu gets the full 5% of the Asian vote, plus a respectable 5% of the White vote. Your author remembers Hu from his days growing up around St. Monica’s grade school and Notre Dame High School. He was liked and respected and with the absence of a White candidate, Hu may pick up even more than that.
The White community will be a surprise. This could be the first time in history that Chicago doesn’t have a White candidate to unite behind. Some of you are probably raising your eyebrows at these statements. But I’ll bet it’s only the people who have never experienced a Rahm Emanuel campaign on the streets of Chicago. Rahm Emanuel was your author’s Congressman and I remember only too well the reception Emanuel was given in the White community. Keep in mind that Chicago is the most Polish city on Earth and when the President of the Polish American Congress says you’re a, “millionaire carpetbagger who knows nothing” you’ve got problems. Chicago’s fired-up Christian and Muslim communities might also have a problem with the fact that Emanuel holds duel U.S./Israeli citizenship, was a volunteer in the Israeli Defense Force, is financed by Jewish film producers in Hollywood and is the poster child for every conspiracy theorist’s vision of the New World Order. For that reason, I believe the White community will only give him 65% of their vote.
But who gets the remaining 30% of the White voting block? If you look at the most recent trends, those are the ‘Forrest Claypool independents’ and ‘anti-Rahm machine Democrats’. I’ll call it a toss-up with Del Valle getting the 15% reform vote and Chico getting the 15% Machine vote. And don’t forget Hu. He grew up on the White Northwest side. I’ve given him 5% of the White vote with the bulk of that coming from his old neighborhood.
The last category is the ‘other’ column. I’m assuming that’s the ever-increasing number of Asians and Middle Easterners. I’m also assuming the percentage of Muslims and independent voters in this group is higher than the other voting blocks. For the sake of ease and probability, let’s spread the 5% equally between each of the top five candidates. That would give Emanuel, Chico, Del Valle, Braun and Davis one more percent each overall.
…and the final tally is:
Emanuel – 31%
Braun – 16%
Chico – 16%
Del Valle – 16%
Davis – 9%
Hu – 7%
Meeks – 6%
Remaining 3% divided among other candidates.
So, there you have it. Only the top two vote-getters advance to the run-off election. Emanuel’s assured a spot. But who will his challenger be? Braun, Chico and Del Valle should be in a statistical tie by the end of election night. Unless…Chico or Del Valle drop out and endorse the other. If you’re looking for a prediction, here it is. Del Valle will drop out and bring his city Clerk army to the Chico camp. A united Hispanic community combined with two patronage armies should have no problem securing Chico a 32% victory over Emanuel’s 31% and Braun’s 16%. Even if Davis drops out and endorses Braun, that only brings her total to 25% and not enough to secure the second run-off spot.
So what happens in the run-off with Chico, the ultimate insider versus Emanuel, the ultimate outsider? The answer is one hell of an election. I can’t wait.