By Mark Wachtler
February 25, 2015. Chicago (ONN) For the first time since Chicago switched to nonpartisan elections 16 years ago, the Democratic Machine’s incumbent Mayor didn’t win outright with more than 50 percent of the vote and must endure a head-to-head run-off in April. That result, an obvious disappointment for Mayor Rahm Emanuel, trickled down throughout the rest of Chicago’s 50 Wards. After yesterday’s election, reformers picked up two more City Council seats and two dozen run-offs will surely add more.
Union-supported Jesus ‘Chuy’ Garcia’s campaign celebrates after forcing Mayor Emanuel into an April run-off. Other reform candidates across the city were equally successful yesterday. Image courtesy of WBEZ.org.
Establishment in shock
There was good news after yesterday’s municipal elections for Chicago reformers, progressives, independents, opposition parties and everyone else who opposes the Chicago Democratic Machine. Currently, the Machine rules the City Council with 44 rubber stamp votes versus 6 reform Aldermen. Already however, reform candidates have won 8 seats outright. And with 19 April run-offs pitting Machine candidates versus reform candidates, that number is sure to grow.
Topping the ballot and leading the parade of disappointed Machine incumbents was the Mayor himself, Rahm Emanuel. Four years ago, the Mayor easily won outright with over 50 percent of the vote. This time, he only received 45% and will face the union-backed second place finisher Jesus ‘Chuy’ Garcia who received 34%. Three other candidates split the remaining vote. His opponents call him ‘Mayor 1%’. And having ten-times more money than all his challengers combined, the results are a shock to the Mayor and the Machine, not to mention the city’s political experts, nearly all of whom predicted an outright Emanuel victory, after nearly universally endorsing him.
City Council power shift
With 44 rubber-stamp Aldermen in the City Council and only 6 reformers, it was going to take an act of God to deliver City Hall back to the people of Chicago. But after the results of yesterday’s election, the reformers will see their coalition grow and maybe even double or triple in size. Looking at some of the raw numbers out of Chicago’s 50 Ward races, 28 incumbents were re-elected. But some of those were reformers.
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7 Machine incumbents were unopposed and 16 more won their elections outright. All together, 8 reformers won their races garnering more than 50 percent, with most being from the block of 6 reform incumbents. Looking to April, there are 19 Aldermanic run-offs and the overwhelming majority of them pit a Machine-backed candidate, usually the incumbent, versus a reform challenger. Some of the races however pit two Machine candidates against each other (2nd, 18th, 24th) or two reform candidates against each other (45th).
Council Wars here we come
Keep in mind, Chicago actually has two Progressive Caucuses in the City Council, seriously. And as this author always reminds readers, not all progressives are reformers and not all reformers are progressives. But among the City Council’s actual incumbent reformers, which can be counted on one hand, all of them either won their races outright or are in an April run-off. The only one of the six who definitely won’t be in the City Council next year is Alderman Bob Fioretti who was re-mapped out of his own 2nd Ward and chose to run for Mayor instead. He finished 4th yesterday with 7% of the vote.
Leading yesterday’s victory for the reform coalition was the city’s most beloved Alderman and Mayor Emanuel’s number one nemesis - 32nd Ward Alderman Scott Waguespack. He easily won re-election with 79%. The 1st Ward’s Proco ‘Joe’ Moreno won with 51%. The 5th Ward’s Leslie Hairston won with 52%. The 6th Ward’s Roderick Sawyer won with 56%. Ricardo Munoz won in the 22nd Ward with 57%. Nicholas Sposato, who was remapped out of his own Ward and had to run against a Machine candidate in his new 38th Ward, won with 54%.
Joining those reform incumbents will be at least two more outright victors in their respective elections yesterday. In the 17th Ward, David Moore won with 53% of the vote. He was endorsed and assisted by Chicago’s grassroots socialists, including a national endorsement from the United Working Families Party. The other surprise victory for reformers yesterday came with the defeat of incumbent 35th Ward Alderman Rey Colon. He was defeated by the union-endorsed immigration-rights activist Carlos Ramirez-Rosa who captured 67% of the vote.
Civil War - Chicago style
With the Mayor and nearly two dozen City Council races heading to an April run-off, the political groundhog must have seen his shadow because Chicago will see six more weeks of election season. And some of those races are sure to bring back memories of the 1980’s with scenes of civil war in the precincts of Chicago’s Wards.
Some of the more interesting Aldermanic run-offs begin in the 2nd Ward. The April run-off pits a Daley Chief of Staff versus a former Rep. Jan Schakowski staffer. We’ve likened the race to a Chicago Machine Democrat versus a Washington Machine Democrat. In the 10th Ward, Machine Alderman John Pope only garnered 44% and will have to face the union-backed Susan Sadlowski Garza. In the 11th Ward, Daley dynasty heir apparent Patrick Daley Thompson only received 48% and will face the young and independent John Kozlar who beat out the union-endorsed candidate for second.
The 15th Ward will see Party Committeeman Raymond Lopez against the union and independent-backed Rafael Yanez. In the 16th Ward, Alderwoman Toni Foulkes, who was re-mapped out of her own Ward for being a reformer, captured 43% in her new Ward and will face Stephanie Coleman who brought in 35%. The 18th Ward should be interesting with the Machine incumbent Lona Lane facing a Party coup by the Machine-backed Committeeman Derrick Curtis. Each received 30% yesterday.
In the 21st Ward, tainted Alderman Howard Brookings only received 42% and will face former Party Committeeman Marvin McNeil who took in 14%. In the 24th Ward, the Machine has two candidates with Park District Supervisor Michael Scott getting 31% and Vetress Boyce bringing in 16%. The 29th Ward will see Machine loyalist Deborah Graham (40%) facing independent-endorsed Chicago Police Sergeant Chris Taliaferro (22%). The 31st Ward should get very interesting with Machine incumbent Regner Suarez (48%) facing former Telemundo reporter and independent-endorsed Milly Santiago.
In the 33rd Ward, the imprisoned former Governor’s sister-in-law and the daughter of the former Alderman, Deb Mell, barely missed avoiding a run-off by receiving 49%. She will face union-backed Tim Meegan who received 35%. The 37th Ward will see Machine incumbent Emma Mitts (49%) facing the school teacher from the projects, Tara Stamps, who garnered 32%. The 43rd Ward will see incumbent Michele Smith (42%) face grassroots attorney Caroline Vickrey (36%). And in the 46th Ward, Machine Alderman James Cappleman (47%) will face off against Sun Times-endorsed Amy Crawford (38%).
Illinois Herald endorsed candidates shine
The Illinois Herald has a proud tradition of supporting and endorsing independent, corruption-busting citizen-candidates. And those reform candidates, especially here in Chicago, almost never win. That’s why this year’s municipal election results must seem like a major disappointment for Chicago’s powerful Democratic Machine. Among the surprises are a handful of candidates endorsed by the Illinois Herald, including three of our four featured candidates - all of whom were nearly blacked-out by the city’s media outlets.
In the 7th Ward, nobody seems to like the Emanuel-appointed incumbent Natashia Holmes. The Tribune endorsed Lashonda Curry and the Sun Times endorsed Flora Digby. When the votes were counted, it was the Illinois Herald endorsed Gregory Mitchell that brought in 20% of the vote to the Machine Alderwoman’s 25%, enough to earn a spot in the April run-off. The Illinois Herald endorsed Mitchell four years ago when he emerged from another crowded field to place third behind the criminally convicted Jackson and Beavers dynasties. And this time around, we’ve been the lone Chicago media outlet touting his campaign as early as July. Read the Illinois Herald article, ‘Mitchell takes on Emanuel Loyalist Holmes in 7th Ward’ for more information.
Another major victory by grassroots independents came from the 11th Ward where the Tribune endorsed the heir of the Daley Machine, Patrick Daley Thompson, and the Sun Times endorsed the union-backed Maureen Sullivan. Only the Illinois Herald had the courage to endorse the independent and virtually unknown John Kozlar, who shocked the entire city by capturing 36% to Daley’s 48% and the right to face the next generation of the Daley dynasty in April.
Chicago’s famously independent far northwest side was the scene of a double reform revolution. The multi-ward area has a large amount of independent and Republican voters. It’s also home to an overwhelming number of pro-union government employees. And it’s here where two reform candidates endorsed and featured by the Illinois Herald shocked their incumbent opponents, each endorsed by both the Tribune and the Sun Times. Score one for Chicago’s independent voters and independent media, make that two.
In the 41st Ward, which includes O’Hare Airport and its new deafening noise, the Illinois Herald-endorsed Anthony Napolitano captured a stunning 42% against the Machine incumbent and Tribune and Sun Times-endorsed Alderwoman Mary O’Connor who received 48%. In next door’s 45th Ward, the Illinois Herald-endorsed John Garrido captured 40% to earn a run-off spot against the union-backed and Tribune and Sun Times-endorsed incumbent Alderman John Arena with 45%. Read the Illinois Herald article, ‘Aldermanic Endorsements - Caravette, Napolitano, Garrido’ for more information.
Beirut by the Lake
It’s safe to say that independents, progressives, reformers and even the unions are celebrating this morning. The days of unconditional Machine rule in Chicago may not be over. But they’re already certain to be a lot less ‘unconditional’. More than that, for the first time since the days of Harold Washington’s revolution and Fast Eddie Vrdolyak’s Solidarity Party, the city of Chicago has a legitimate ‘opposition’. And with the Mayor’s office and nearly half of the seats in the City Council still hanging in the balance, the days of ‘Beirut by the Lake’ may be back.
And while history and the media portray that time in Chicago politics as a blight, this author has always remembered it fondly. It was democracy in action, albeit Chicago-style. People were passionate. People voted in record numbers. People were involved. Unlike today. If the days of contested rule are back in Chicago, then God bless it.
View yesterday’s complete Chicago election results compliments of the Chicago Sun Times. Compare it to the Illinois Herald full List of 2015 Endorsements to see how the independents and corruption-busters faired.
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