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It’s All Over But Toni’s Concession

Don Rose 31 March 2019 No Comment

Chicago’s most unusual mayoral election is reaching an end that should surprise few by now: a gay, African American woman who seemingly came out of nowhere wins a lopsided victory over another African American woman who is the boss of the Cook County Democratic Party and recently re-elected to her third term as President of the Cook County Board.


     Writing this on the Sunday before the April 2 runoff election it looks to me as if Lori Lightfoot will get something in the mid-to-high sixtieth percentile  of the vote and perhaps 42 out of 50 wards. (But only if you vote!)

   Out on a limb? Been there before. Yes, I fell from that perch when I expected Donald Trump to get well under 270electoral votes, so catch a crow and prepare to barbecue it for me if I’m wrong–but I expect to be sipping champagne election night.

   This was the first mayoral election where corruption and the Chicago Machine was the decisive factor–though many have tried to run on those issues in the past–and the most consequential player, once Mayor Rahm Emanuel dropped out of the race, was not any single candidate but Ed Burke, our most powerful alderman, who was caught on tape allegedly trying to extort money from a businessman.

   To recap briefly: There were 10 candidates on the ballot who thought they would be running against Rahm. (After grilling her on key issues I signed up as an unpaid advisor to Lightfoot, former head of the police board and a police reform advocate.)

   When Rahm dropped, four Machine-oriented figures jumped in: Preckwinkle, Illinois Comptroller Susana Mendoza, Gery Chico and Bill Daley.

   They immediately became the frontrunners–Preckwinkle with 30 percent support–until the Burke news broke. All four were tainted to varying degrees by associations with Burke and their ratings all dropped to 13-15 percent, where they stayed throughout the first round.

    Lightfoot’s strategy was to separate herself from the “Burke 4″ and claim leadership as an independent ,progressive reformer. A vigorous endorsement from the Sun-Times helped her win the mantle, a fine commercial solidified it and endorsements from leading progressive reformers David Orr, Dick Simpson and Alderman Scott Waguespack among others cemented it.

    Lightfoot moved swiftly the last 10 days from 3 percent to a tie with the leaders, and on election day hit 16.5%, trailed by Preckwinkle’s 15.1%.

   Immediately after, two polls showed her beating Preckwinkle 57-30 in the runoff–a range that stayed throughout the campaign.  Preckwinkle was locked into that number and could only hope to win by going negative–which she did from her speech on election night of the first round followed by attack commercials.

   Lightfoot countered with negative spots of her own, plus a couple of strong positives. She picked up the endorsements of Chuy Garcia, Timuel Black,  several aldermen , the Chicago Tribune, Crain’s Chicago Business and seven former candidates.

   Preckwinkle’s strong attacks tended to fizzle if not backfire–which brings us up to today. Lightfoot has become a phenomenon, which is why I make my prediction.

    Is it right?

   We shall see on April three.

Don Rose is a regular columnist for the Chicago Daily Observer

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