In a crowded field, no dominant candidate in Chicago's mayor race

Chicagoans will go to the polls to elect a new mayor on Tuesday. Actually, it's the Democratic primary that's being held but in the one party dictatorship that is Chicago, it's decisive.

With 14 candidates on the ballot, it's not likely anyone will top 50% - the threshold for an outright victory. So it's likely that the top two vote getters will be forced into a runoff on April 2.

Several issues top the agenda for candidates, including perennial favorites "Police reform" (See: "Chicago PD"), and "public corruption" (See: Pontiac prison.) Throw in guns, violence, sky high property taxes, and most of all, a toxic racial divide and the stage is set for the most pivotal election in the city's history.

Two septugenarians are favored. Seventy year old brother and son of former mayors, Bill Daley, and 71 year old Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle are ahead in the polls, but make no mistake - there are 3 or 4 other candidates who could surprise.

Bill Daley has never held public office, but served as Barack Obama's chief of staff. His campaign theme - as it is for all the candidates - is "change." In truth, Daley personifies the city's establishment and has had difficulty explaining exactly what it is he would change. But the Daley name is still magic in the city, despite the weakening of the Democratic political machine. 

He is actually being outpolled by Preckwinkle who has been a fixture in city politics for decades. A former teacher, she is running on an educational reform platform and, in racially divided Chicago, is the most prominent black running for the office.

But there are several other intruiging candidates who might exceed expectations and sneak into the runoff unexpectedly.


The initial favorites were two clout-heavy, labor-backed minority women, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle and Illinois Comptroller Susana Mendoza.


Mendoza has some organized labor support and is drawing a portion of the Latino vote. The city’s other major newspaper, the Chicago Sun-Times, backed Lightfoot, who led Chicago police reforms and who has drawn some progressive backing. Gery Chico, a former Chicago Public Schools board president, is attracting a slice of the Latino vote and has had a steady TV presence.

Meanwhile, businessman Willie Wilson, a wealthy long-shot who ran against Emanuel in 2015, has strong backing in the African American community and Amara Enyia, an activist and political consultant, is appealing to millennials after the likes of Chance the Rapper and Kanye West offered her early financial support and endorsements.

Of all these second tier candidates, two stand out. Lori Lightfoot received a lot of good press for her service on the Chicago Police Board, although she's not very popular with cops. With extremely low turnout expected, Lightfoot's appeal to the far left may allow her to squeak by and grab the second spot on Tuesday.

The other candidate I think has the best chance of making a runoff is Susana Mendoza. She has had a constant presence on local TV and is a bright, engaging candidate. She has been indirectly tarred by the bribery scandal involving 50 year Alderman Ed Burke, but probably not enough to hurt her.

The trend in politics nationwide has been toward more radical candidates. It wouldn't surprise me to see one of the far left favorites make it to the runoff against either Daley or Preckwinkle. 




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