CN March 5, 2015, part one

What happens now?

If Rahm Emanuel is to move forward and win the runoff, where will he find the votes?

Veteran reporter and political writer Glenn Reedus says the mayor’s especially focused on black Chicago.

(3.50) “There are about 1 million people who did not vote on February 24th,” he explains. “And of those, when you take those predominately African American wards, about 40 percent, close to 400,000 people are available. So, it is going to be a matter of which camp can mobilize and get to those voters.”

But what of the northwest side? Rahm Emanuel won most of those precincts, but he left thousands and thousands of votes on the table. Can he win those votes?

(5.39) “In this case, there are a lot of moving parts,” explains author and political writer Ethan Michaeli. “Why did people stay home on the Northwest side? These were expected to be Rahm Emanuel’s key voters. If they stayed home, it may because they were voting with their silence…(9.53) When it comes to the airport noise issue, on the Northwest side, folks there who are inclined to vote for him there, received not only no response in the kind of traditional sense of a form letter, but I mean no response in terms of no one from the mayor’s office will even write them back an email. ”

But regardless of race, demography or address, a lot of people just didn’t vote this time, and both Chuy Garcia and Rahm Emanuel are critically aware of it. “A million voters just sitting around—that’s tough to ignore,”  says Reedus.

There are still far too many factors that could sway the election one way or the other. But a major challenge for the mayor, Michaeli believes, is that Emanuel has “lost the initiative”.

(8.25) “Garcia has now emerged as someone who people are considering,” he asserts. “It is a plausibility question. It’s  ‘Can this guy be my mayor?’ And so far, Garcia has passed the test. He hasn’t made any missteps. He appears to be a politician with experience. To turn Senator Mark Kirk’s phrase the other way, he does seem to have the gravitas to sit in the fifth floor of City Hall. It’s really the establishment folks that are apoplectic about the prospect of a Garcia as mayor.”

(Sen. Kirk remarked yesterday in support of Mayor Emanuel that “…if we had one of the less-responsible people running against him…none of them could command the respect of the bond market. The collapse of Chicago debt — which already happened with Detroit — would soon follow if somebody who is very inexperienced replaced Rahm. …You’ve got to have a strong, capable leader and the people I’ve seen running against the mayor are not that leader.”

Mayor Emanuel is playing on that perceived strength – that he’s the one who can tame the raging deficits and pension shortfalls. But Michaeli says he still thinks there are places to cut before taking the knife to the pensions of long-time city workers.

(16.46) “You can say that the City is faced with a lot of fiscal problems,” he says. “Then when you see a $20 million no-bid contract go out from the Chicago Board of Education to a clout-connected consulting firm to train principals, you start to ask yourself, ‘how many contracts of that size and that nature are there littering the city budget?’”

(19.39) “The reality is though,” Michaeli adds, “When you get past the celebrity smokescreen, Rahm Emmanuel has been a profligate spender, who has not done anything about the fiscal issues or has done marginal moves about the issues, Chuy Garcia at Cook County has been a responsible fiscal steward. They have been able to solve most of their fiscal issues without raising taxes or fees much.”

The mayor seems to be acknowledging his “likability” problem, cutting a new commercial that portrays him as concerned about his ability to “rub people the wrong way” or having a propensity to “talk when I should listen”. But Reedus tells us “I was at three forums that the mayor attended, no matter what the question, the same canned answers. That turned people off.”

Rahm Emanuel is the first of an entirely new breed of Chicago mayors, asserts Michaeli. “He has completely eschewed a street organization, completely eschewed the traditional way of doing politics in favor of a total money and television-driven campaign”.

But that according to Michaeli, may not be his biggest issue.

“Emanuel’s worked hard to alienate many different constituents.”

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About Ken

Ken's the host of Chicago Newsroom. A former news director, reporter and radio program host, he's also a past Vice President of the Chicago Headline Club.
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