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Chicago Mayoral Race Begins to Take Shape

Don Rose 26 September 2018 No Comment

Apart from nail-biting over whether the damaged Cubs can maintain their slim lead in National League Central, Chicagoans seem to be getting more excited about the  Feb. 26 mayoral than the national midterms. Since Rahm Emanuel’s decision not to run, some big names have been added to the dozen originals who thought they would be challenging the incumbent.

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The most consequential to join the fray is Toni Preckwinkle, president of the Cook County Board and chair of the county Democratic party, who, as I suggested a couple weeks ago, becomes the de facto front runner, flaunting an unmatched resume for the gig along with a history of enacting unpopular taxes.

She is a former five-term alderman with an initial reputation as a reformer, now running unopposed for her third term as board president–though the reform rep has been somewhat sullied through the years as she played ball with some of the worst Machine hacks and seems to have found no developers with whom she could not make sweetheart deals . She gets votes from all over town and would become the first African American woman to hold the job.

The next biggest name is huge in this town: Daley. This one is Bill, son of the biggest boss, Richard J. and brother of the recent one, Richard M. He’s never run for political office except for an aborted try for governor, though he is clearly the smartest and most liberal Daley offspring–relatively speaking. A former Secretary of Commerce and Obama chief of staff, he’ll have old-line Machine and big business backing, plus sentiment for the name, though it was tarnished in Richie’s final years.

Bill may be plagued by his stated support for some of his brother’s most notorious catastrophes, such as selling off the city’s parking meters and sinking the town into deep debt.  He was known to be his brother’s top advisor on issues, which could kill him off quickly.

A prominent but not super-big name who entered recently is Gery Chico, former Richard M. Daley chief of staff and chair of the school board, among many appointive positions–though he flunked badly in runs for the US Senate and for mayor in 2011. Other than having roots in the Latino community, he draws from essentially the same constituency as Bill Daley. The fact that the big-shot law firm he headed collapsed during his senate run does not help.

The most consequential person strongly considering running, but as yet undeclared, is Preckwinkle’s floor leader County Commissioner Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, who is certain to be elected to Congress in November. Thanks to his 2015 run for mayor, where he forced Emanuel into a runoff, and his later work for Bernie Sanders in 2016 he has become not only the most prominent Latino, but a citywide progressive leader with roots going back to the Harold Washington era.

If he declares he likely becomes the Number 2 contender.

Meanwhile, the dozen original brave souls in the race must refigure their strategies for the new field. Petition filing runs Nov.26-Dec.2. We’ll see who actually winds up on the ballot.

Don Rose is a regular columnist for the Chicago Daily Observer

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