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Can Chicago Deliver Enough Votes for Democrat Victory this November?

Russ Stewart 30 September 2014 No Comment

The November 4 election, for Democratic politicians in Chicago, will be a “UPS moment.” Which committeemen among the 50 Chicago wards will deliver? And will their delivery be decisive and intimidating?

With Chicago politicians already heavily focused on the Feb. 24, 2015 municipal election, and those with statewide ambitions intensely pondering the state landscape for 2016 and 2018, the 2014 vote will, to use that ancient sexist expression, “separate the men from the boys.”

12-14--First Ward Ball
Many decisions will be made, or unmade, based on which candidates run best, and which committeemen produce the most votes.
First, the governor’s race is of critical importance to Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan and his daughter, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan. A tactical determination of great import looms: As Lisa Madigan aspires to run for governor in 2018, is it more advantageous for her prospects to have a Republican (Bruce Rauner) or a Democrat (incumbent Pat Quinn) as governor for the next four years?

If Rauner wins, then Lisa Madigan’s 2018 path is cleared; if Quinn wins, he (and the legislature’s Democratic supermajority) may be so reviled that no Democrat can be elected governor in 2018. If Rauner wins, then Springfield gridlock will ensue, with vetoes, overrides, and constant posturing and bickering. Of course, if Madigan remains as speaker through 2018, then his unpopularity will reach new lows, and it will rub off on his daughter. By then, Madigan will have been speaker for 34 of the previous 36 years, and he’ll surely stick around until 2022 to make sure Lisa gets the legislative support she needs.

Two scenarios emerge:

In a Rauner governorship, Springfield Democrats could revert to being part of, as Howard Dean once put it, the “Democratic wing of the Democratic party.” Quinn is a member of that wing: a tax-and-spend populist liberal. So, to a lesser extent, is Senate President John Cullerton (D), who, with a 40-19 supermajority, will dominate that chamber through 2022, and habitually support tax and fee hikes. Ironically, it is Mike Madigan who has been the most conservative – or, more aptly, least liberal – among Springfield leaders. His House majority is 71-47, just one vote above the 60 percent supermajority, which enables him to override vetoes and pass bills in overtime sessions. During the 2013-14 session, Madigan resisted calls for tax hikes, and even proposed reducing the corporate income tax rate.
His motivation was entirely selfish. If he instructed some of his suburban and/or Downstate members to support higher taxes, they would lose, and Madigan’s job security would be jeopardized. In the Illinois House, everything is about power (Madigan’s) and keeping it. That is the agenda.

Under a Rauner governorship, legislative Democrats – with Madigan’s encouragement – could engage in a gluttony of spending, safe in the knowledge that Rauner would veto them, thereby enraging whatever special interest benefited; and, of course, that special interest would donate copiously to the Democrats. And, when faced with a government shutdown or a tax hike, Rauner would capitulate. The legislature, with Republican members backing their governor, would sign on, and the tax hike would be bi-partisan, thereby insulating Madigan’s members.

Said one local Democratic politician: “Madigan really wants Rauner to win, so that the ugly work will be done by 2018, and Lisa can take over.”

In another Quinn governorship, there will be more gridlock, but the causative agent will be Madigan. Quinn has said he will not run in 2018. In order to elect Lisa in 2018, the speaker will have to insure that the “Madigan wing” of the Democratic Party in Illinois is clearly differentiated from the “Democratic wing” of the Democratic Party. That means Madigan must be the anti-tax obstructionist – as he was during 2013-14. In short, he must establish separation between Quinn-Cullerton and the Madigan faction.

In politics, “shaving” is a timeless technique. That means a ward or township boss instructs his minions to instruct his controlled vote not to vote for somebody. Polls show the Quinn-Rauner race close. A Real Clear Politics polling average had Rauner leading by 0.3 percent; the latest We Ask America poll had Pauner up 44-41 percent, although an early September Chicago Tribune poll had Quinn up 48-37 percent. The candidates will spend about $60 million on the race, which will be decided by 25,000-50,000 votes.

In 2010, Quinn trounced Bill Brady (R) in Chicago by 520,413-120,110 (75.5 percent). Quinn won Madigan’s 13th Ward 8,487-2,481 (68.5 percent); adjacent southwest side wards also went heavily for Quinn. In Bill Lipinski’s 23rd Ward (around Midway Airport), Quinn won 6,615-4,970 (57.9 percent); in Tom Hynes’ 19th Ward, Quinn won14,933-7,516 (62.1 percent); in the Daley’s Bridgeport 11th Ward, Quinn won 7,415-2,927 (64.3 percent). Any “shavings” here would be obvious.

But, as Madigan is Democratic state chairman, and has a coterie of Downstate legislators closely allied with the Downstate Democratic county chairmen, shaving is more easily accomplished. In 2010, Quinn carried Cook County by 500,553 votes; he lost the collar counties to Brady by 114,583 votes, and the remaining 95 Downstate counties by 354,146 votes, for an overall win by 31,834 votes.

Quinn’s consistent history of pandering to Chicago-area gays, minorities and liberals has totally estranged him from Downstrate voters, who cast roughly 25 percent of the statewide vote. Even though Rauner is a North Shore suburbanite, he will still figures to carry Downstate. If the speaker “shaves” Quinn by not spending party money Downstate, that might enable Rauner to win the area by close to 450,000 votes – and thus the election.

Second, the performance of Lisa Madigan will be closely monitored. A summer poll had her beating Mike Schrimpf, her unknown Republican opponent, by just a few percentage points. Having won in 2006 by a margin of 1,677,210 votes (72.5 percent) and in 2010 by 1,225,296 votes (64,7 percent), any major 2014 diminution in her vote will be noteworthy. The goal is that Lisa Madigan runs 400,000 to 500,000 votes ahjeads of Quinn, and the speaker will be closely monitoring the productivity of various committeemen and county chairmen.

By 2018, Lisa Madigan will have been attorney general for 16 years, and be a still-youthful 51. But she is no longer a fresh face, and her ascension to the governorship is no longer inevitable.

Third, inside the campaign of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, concerns are surfacing that he may not win a second term outright on Feb. 24, but may be forced into an April runoff. In 2011, facing five opponents, Emanuel garnered 325,965 votes (55.3 percent), in a turnout of 589,828; only one foe, Gery Chico, was serious. In 2015, having antagonized the public sector unions and police with his pension “reforms,” and blacks with his school closings. It is clear that Emanuel has major problems.

To be sure, he’ll have close to $20 million to spend, but his message is dubious. Efficient but unlikable, Emanuel has no signature achievement to justify four more years. It is probable that 10-15 percent of the 2011 Emanuel voters won’t back him (or won’t vote) in 2015. That winnows his base vote to 275,000-290,000. And that means, if turnout exceeds 580,000 – approximately the 2011 level – the mayor is in serious trouble.

But there is a path to victory: Depress turnout. And spread gobs of money in the wards, especially the black-majority wards, to get people not to vote. In the outlying white ethnic wards, on the Northwest and Southwest side, Emanuel will also dump oodles of cash. On the Lakefront, mailers will fall like rain. A low vote is the goal. By campaign’s end, Emanuel will spend $75 for every vote he gets.

Emanuel’s opponents are Bob Fioretti, a white alderman from the black-majority South Side 2nd Ward; black former Board of Review commissioner Bob Shaw; and likely Karen Lewis, Chicago Teachers Union president, who is black. In 2011, Emanuel won 59 percent of the vote in the city’s 20 black wards. He must replicate that feat in 2015.

That’s why Nov. 4 is a template for Feb. 24. It’s a “UPS Moment.” Those committeemen who deliver for Quinn, Lisa Madigan and Secretary of State Jesse White will be sitting pretty. They get the Emanuel largesse.

And those who fumble? Emanuel will still have time to recruit and field aldermanic candidates in those wards, fund them lavishly, and have them run a joint mayoral/aldermanic campaign.

The mayor’s worst nightmare is a runoff, which means nobody got over 50 percent on Feb. 24. That will be abject humiliation. King Rahm will have been humbled. The expectation is that there will be an Emanuel-Lewis runoff, as Lewis, Fioretti and Shaw will accumulate more than 50 percent; Emanuel’s support in the black community has collapsed. Black committeemen will take his money and run.

But, given a “Least Worst” choice between Emanuel and Lewis, will white and Hispanic voters really opt for a rabble-rouser like Lewis? I think not. Emanuel will limp to a second term, with many calamities yet to come.

**

Russ Stewart is a political analyst for the Chicago Daily Observer

E-mail Russ@russstewart.com or visit his website at www.russstewart.com

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