Surprisingly very few, Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle announced that she would not be endorsing a candidate in the April mayoral run-off. While her announcement can be seen as a positive for embattled Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, it is clearly a blow to challenger and Preckwinkle’s floor leader Cook County Commissioner Jesus “Chuy” Garcia.
At one time, Preckwinkle was thought to be Rahm’s major challenger. That was until she announced that she would not be running for mayor. Instead Rahm was challenged by Garcia, second ward alderman Bob Fioretti, executive Willie Wilson, and community activist William “Dock” Walls. Receiving a third fewer votes than he did in 2011, Rahm now faces Chicago’s first mayoral runoff in recent history.
Despite Rahm’s political war chest and heavy hitting former boss, Garcia capitalized on a weakened incumbent. A weakened incumbent who now has to sing a new message, one about being best poised to lead Chicago as opposed to a referendum on his first term as mayor.
Garcia on the other hand will need to resurrect the Black-Hispanic-Progressive coalition that Mayor Harold Washington built to propel himself to victory in 1983 and 1987. Preckwinkle’s refusal to endorse a candidate makes that coalition one step further away from fruition. The ongoing posturing for dominance in the April election will create an air of instability within the state’s largest city. That instability is likely to spill over to on-going projects like the Wrigley Field remodel.
Chicago and its council thrive on stability. With 19 wards having the pleasure of an April runoff election and alderman Rey Colon losing outright to Carlos Rosa there isn’t a lot of stability to go around. In flux are committee chairmanships, funding for major ward projects, and council power.
Alderman Ray Suarez, Rahm’s Vice Mayor and Chairman of the Housing and Real Estate Committee and the Joint Committee on Housing and Real Estate; Zoning, Landmarks, and Buildings will face off against Milly Santiago. Santiago received 37 percent of the vote compared to Suarez’ 47 percent in the 31st ward. A difference of less than 600 votes. In 2011, Suarez ran unopposed.
Despite winning outright in 2011, Alderman Emma Mitts will meet Tara Stamps in the April municipal election. Mitts who received 48 percent of the vote is the Chairman of the License and Consumer Protection Committee. Stamps received 25.9 percent of the vote in February.
Tenth ward Alderman John Pope will face challenger Susan Sadlowski-Garza despite winning outright in 2011 against Dinah Ramirez and Thomas Malesh. Pope is the Vice-Chairman of the Transportation and Public Way Committee.
However, the most engaging race may end up being in the 45th ward where Alderman John Arena will face off again against John Garrido. Less than 740 votes separated them this past February and only 30 votes separated Garrido from a seat on the city council in 2011.
Perhaps what’s most interesting is that according to history, almost half of the runoffs will result in the incumbent losing. Either way there will be little stability and a lot of political gamesmanship in the council for some time.
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