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Chicago mayoral election was never close

  • Written by Ray Hanania

 Hanania-GrapevineThe nice thing about living in the suburbs, is that we’re laid back and we are armchair quarterbacks. 

We don’t want to live in Chicago, but we love to talk about it. And explain what’s wrong with it, too. We love to talk about Chicago elections because for the most part, suburban elections are so boring.
That’s why voter turnout last week in Chicago was about 40 percent, while the turn in the suburbs hovered around 11 percent in many races.
So, if you don’t care about suburban races, why should I waste my time writing about them?
Last week, Mayor Rahm Emanuel easily won re-election, even though for most of the past eight months, everyone was saying he was in trouble and that Cook County Commissioner Jesus Chuy Garcia was a potential threat to unseat him.
But in the end, Mayor Emanuel won a landslide victory over Garcia, and it’s worth looking at why. Emanuel received 55 percent of the vote and Garcia got 45 percent. Where I come from (40 years of covering Chicago elections) that’s an enormous landslide in a hotly contested race
Emanuel had more money. Garcia raised a whopping $5 million, in a large part because he had some heavyweights on his side, like the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) and the Service Employees International Union.
But Emanuel raised $30 million and he didn’t spend it all.
The campaign ads went back and forth bashing each other and like Emanuel, Garcia never really said what he would do any different. But while an incumbent can blah, blah, blah his (or her) way through an election, a challenger can’t. They need to say specifically what they would do differently to justify why voters should oust an incumbent.
The only real message that came out of the election is that Emanuel was “humbled,” and he promised to “change.”
Yeah, right. Like any mayor of a major American city will change anything.
 
The real problem is that Chuy was just not that popular. He claimed to have the mantle of the old Harold Washington coalition, but the fact is many if not most African Americans voted for Emanuel. Why? Because Chuy was more about perception and less about substance.
The two worst problems are interrelated. Schools and crime. Chicago’s schools are sending more students to street gang careers than college, and so far no one has come up with a real idea on how to change it. I’ve suggested the only solution, forcing homeowners and residents to roll up their sleeves and become more involved in their neighborhoods, but neither Emanuel nor Garcia thought that was worth exploring.
It works in many suburbs where gang crimes have dropped significantly.
Chuy is hero among his supporters, but that won’t win many elections. I doubt seriously if he can run and win the office of Cook County Board President, if President Toni Preckwinkle decides not to run for re-election. He certainly can’t beat her.
But the interesting casualty of this election may be Garcia’s “close pal,” Congressman Luis Gutierrez.
Congressman Gutierrez’s district is 18 percent Puerto Rican, and more than 70 percent Mexican American. The fact that Gutierrez wouldn’t support his Mexican American ally might prompt Mexican American voters to abandon Gutierrez.
Now that would be an election worth seeing.
 
Ray Hanania is a former Chicago City Hall reporter and President/CEO of Urban Strategies Group media consulting. Reach him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .