It is difficult to imagine Rahm Emanuel as a sympathetic, victim-like figure, but whoever actually financed the effort to remove him from the Chicago mayoral ballot did the trick. By the time the Illinois Supreme Court reflexively restored his name, such a crescendo of support had built up that he stands a good chance of winning the job outright on Feb. 22 instead of being forced into a runoff.
To do so he must get 50 percent of the vote plus one; otherwise he will have to run against the second-place finisher on April 5. All 50 aldermen also are elected under the same “nonpartisan” system.
Certain things were clear all along, if you’ve been keeping up with my weekly rants:
First, love him or hate him, he has always been the decisively clear frontrunner, though a runoff seemed far more likely only a week ago. Now I consider it at least 50/50 that he avoids a runoff.
Second, the case was always going to wind up in the state supreme court and he would wind up on the ballot when all was said and done.
Third, he will win the runoff if he is in one. I will expand on that in a moment.
The unsolved mystery is who is behind the ballot-removal case. There are two named plaintiffs but they are obvious stooges. One, an ex-cop, says nothing publicly. The other, a lawyer, refuses to say how much he is ostensibly paying election lawyer Burt Odelson’s hefty fees or where the money is coming from.
Speculation centers on Alderman Ed Burke, who has both the money and the motive—he is a supporter of candidate Gery Chico, who would be the prime beneficiary of Emanuel’s removal. But that is only speculation based on the Byzantine logic of Chicago politics—no proof exists.
Equally Byzantine is the political tracery of the Illinois courts. We are far from the days when Mayor Richard J. Daley said “Jump!” and all the judges in the system chorused “How high?” Nevertheless, politics still plays a role in political cases, even if it means doing the right thing.
Without relitigating everything, please remember this: For a couple of decades now, the unyielding trend of state and federal court rulings on ballot placement has been to liberalize access, loosening restrictions and arcane definitions of residency. That’s why I was sure of Emanuel’s ultimate success.
Finally, if there is a runoff, demographics suggests it is most likely to be against Carol Moseley Braun, even if she only gets 65 percent of the African American vote. But Chico voters will switch to Emanuel in the runoff.
Conversely, if Braun blows everything—unlikely but possible—and Chico sneaks into the runoff, black voters will swing to Obama’s man Emanuel.
The saddest thing is that the only unalloyed progressive reformer, Miguel del Valle, turned out to be a poor candidate, financially and publicly, lacking fire and incisiveness, frustrating many of his strongest supporters.
Don Rose is a regular columnist for the Chicago Daily Observer