On today’s “Part 2: the Runoffs”, we tackle Wards 11, 20, 24, and 33 with veteran journalists Ethan Michaeli and Glenn Reedus.
Ward 11: Daley-Thompson/Kozlar
The grandson of Richard J. Daley, after a short stint at Water Reclamation, seeks the aldermanic seat of his family’s ancestral home against a political novice. And doesn’t get 50%. In Bridgeport. What’s going on?
Michaeli says there’s a strong similarity between this race and the 33rd, where Deb Mell, at least initially, fell short of 50% +1. (as of this writing, absentee votes have taken her over the top by a dozen or so). In both cases, they’ve been challenged successfully by younger upstart candidates with some outside funding.
(3:20) “They’re both getting support from CTU,” he explains. “But neither of them were handed-picked by CTU. This is not one of those proxy fights – well, not necessarily a proxy fight between the CTU and the mayor. Which is why I think that it is so interesting that these old school political families have just not been able to get their candidates in.”
(6:15) “They have street organizations that a lot of ward organizations don’t have any more,” he continues. “A Lot of aldermen simply don’t have anyone to walk the streets anymore. But these two families still do.”
And it seems reasonably clear that the Daley-Thompson candidacy came up short as much because of disdain for Mayor Emanuel as for the candidate himself.
(4:56) “Patrick Daley-Thompson has been a credible elected official,” Michaeli says. “He was at the Water Reclamation District, didn’t get into any scandals, and didn’t say anything terrible. This frankly could have been seen as a small step up on what will probably be a long political career. So that he’s faced this kind of obstacle I think is realy significant.”
Ward 20: Cochran/Bailey
This south side ward, Reedus says, could be considered as centered near 63rd and King Drive. Alderman Cochran is the incumbent, and Reedus says it isn’t easy to find positive accomplishments.
(9:00) “You don’t see any difference, you don’t see difference in that ward for somebody who’s been around and who should have clout, and as you’ve pointed out, votes with the mayor way more than he doesn’t. And nothing is happening…I think it’s a general feeling and it just shows when you drive through the ward. There are so many abandoned buildings, abandoned properties that have been fallow for decades.”
This ward is another that seems to be undergoing a surge of dissatisfaction with the incumbent. He tells us, “You’ve got this guy, Kevin Bailey, who is, as far as I know, this is his first time running. But he comes off like a pro.”
(11:51) “I think that Cochran has to be surprised that an upstart could do so well,” he explains. “I personally think the momentum is with Kevin Bailey.”
(12:17) “I think when you look at the runoffs in the black wards,” he asserts, “You’re going to see there are seven incumbents; I think you’re going to see four of those incumbents moved out.”
Ward 24: Boyce/Scott, Jr.
” I don’t understand why anybody wants to be the Alderman of 24,” Reedus begins, “Because it is just, I don’t know how to describe it, it is in such a state of flux.”
But despite his bewilderment, lots of people wanted the job, and the runoff came down to two candidates, including Michael Scott, Jr, son of the highly influential Michael Scott, who held many major positions in Mayor Daley’s government.
(14:20) “Junior has had one job that I can tell'” he says. “That’s with the Park District and gee, how did he get that one? I don’t see that he’s been involved much in the political arena and right now, when you go back to the ward organizations, you’ve got Jason Irvin from the 28th Ward. Another Westside Ward. He’s sent his organizations over to campaign for Scott but Scott is up against an extremely formidable opponent, a woman by the name of Vetress Boyce. She’s run a couple of times before and has come very close.”
Regardless of who wins, the problems in the 24th are almost insurmountable. Decades of disinvestment, environmental assault and political malfeasance have taken their toll.(17:09) “I grew up in that area and I can remember riding the Roosevelt Road bus to school. There is a Foremost liquor store there on Roosevelt Road and at 7.30 in the morning; you got 70 guys standing out front. That was many, many years ago. Now, you’ve got 67 guys standing out in front…”
Ward 33: Meegan/Mell
(22:01) “This was supposed to be a seamless transition and it almost has been,”explains Michaeli. The challenger Tim Meegan is behind by a dozen to nineteen votes. I don’t know what the latest count is. He has issued a challenge in court and in public to try to force a runoff to happen. We will not know for a few days even if there will actually be a runoff in the ward.
So it could be good news for Deb Mell that she might win her first City Council election, even if by a few votes. (She was appointed by Mayor Emanuel after her father, Dick Mell, retired last year.) (22:56) “Given that there’s really a small number of votes that puts Deb Mell over, it does suggest that a runoff is possible, although I wouldn’t say at this moment that it is super likely.”
In the big picture, has the relatively new runoff system begun slowly changing Chicago’s body politic? Will we start seeing more runoffs, resulting in a more independent style of alderman? “No,” Michaeli asserts.
(26:00) “The problem will always be, if you’re an alderman you are working for the residents of your ward and so much of what you do has nothing to do with the votes that you’ve cast in the City Council. It will always be to your benefit to work with the mayor as opposed to voting a different way.”
But Reedus dissents, a little. (26:20) “I think it’s going to change because we’re looking at someone who’s not going to be mayor for two-three decades. As the head of the snake changes, so will the body.”
And a final thought on incumbency. Ethan Michaeli: “I think from the perspective of many of the incumbents, they’re seeing a restless peasantry. And they are nervous when they see the pitchforks and the torches.”