February 19, 2003


If the Bush Administration in March can squash opposition in Iraq as easily as the Daley Administration will squash opposition in Chicago on Feb. 25, then the upcoming Iraqi invasion will be the epitome of annihilation.

For Mayor Rich Daley, the 50 Chicago Democratic ward organizations and the tens of thousands of precinct captains and poll workers that they command and deploy, the election will be "Obliteration Day" -- Daley and every Daley-endorsed citywide and aldermanic candidate will be victorious.

Among city voters, there is negligible interest in the election, minimal hostility toward Daley and the aldermanic incumbents, and no desire for change. That's an unusually incumbent-friendly environment. While there is much trepidation regarding Iraq and the effects of a war on security, gas prices and the economy in general, there is great contentment with the political status quo in Chicago.

It is, therefore, quite easy to make the prediction that Daley and all the Northwest Side aldermanic incumbents will win, and I will. The only imponderable is their margins. Here are my predictions:

Mayor: Citywide turnout has decreased in every election since 1987, primarily among black voters. In 1987, when Mayor Harold Washington sought his second term, election turnout was 1,103,319, and Washington got 591,881 votes (53.6 percent). In the special 1989 mayoral election following Washington's death, the Democratic primary turnout was 823,418, a drop-off of nearly 300,000, with appointed incumbent Gene Sawyer getting 353,424 votes and Daley getting 465,275. Turnout in the 1989 election was 1,006,174 -- more than 100,000 lower than 1987 -- with Tim Evans getting 426,359 votes and Daley winning with 575,900 (57.2 percent).

In 1991, turnout in the Democratic primary was 646,796 -- nearly 200,000 below 1989 and 500,000 below 1987 -- with Daley getting 407,730 votes to Danny Davis's 198,815 (30.7 percent). In the 1991 election, turnout was 636,716, almost 500,000 less than in 1987, and Daley got 450,155 votes -- about 125,000 fewer than in 1989 -- and Gene Pincham got 159,608 votes (25.1 percent).

The Democratic primary turnout in 1995 was 507,006, or almost 600,000 below 1987, with Daley getting 336,243 votes, or 70,000 fewer than in 1991, and Joe Gardner getting 164,969. Turnout in the 1995 election was 579,417 (or 57,000 less than 1991), and Daley got 350,785 votes (60.5 percent), or 100,000 fewer than he got in 1991, to Roland Burris's 207,464.

In 1999, with partisan primaries being abolished, Daley got 418,211 votes (72 percent) in a 578,778 turnout, with Bobby Rush getting 160,567.

The trajectory is this: Turnout declined from 1,103,319 in 1987 to 579,417 in 1999, the vote for the black candidate declined from 591,881 to 160,567, and Daley's vote declined from 465,275 to 418,211. The 2003 election will see further declines.

My prediction: Daley's support remains rock solid, and his opposition's diminishes with every election. Three black candidates, the Reverend Paul Jakes, the Reverend Joe McAfee and businesswoman Pat McAllister, are opposing Daley. Because white voters feel no great impetus to vote for Daley to block the election of a black mayor, white turnout will be down; because black voters know that Daley won't lose, and because none of the black candidates are even remotely credible, black turnout will be down. Turnout will be under 475,000 this year, and Daley will win with 385,000 votes (81 percent), with Jakes second with 60,000 votes, or 100,000 fewer than Rush got in 1999.

For all intents and purposes, there is no anti-Daley opposition in Chicago or in the City Council, and voters seem quite satisfied with that situation.

45th Ward: Alderman Pat Levar is clutching Daley as strongly as any Titanic survivor clutched any flotation device. His workers stress his support of the popular Daley, and his campaign signs hype Daley-Levar. But what's the need? Admittedly, white voters on the Northwest Side don't feel any great urgency to come out and vote for Daley, since he's a cinch to win.

Levar faces two opponents, Pete Conway and Bruce Best, and Levar's workers worry that too many pro-Daley voters will ignore the election. In reality, Levar's also a cinch to win. Both of his foes are attacking Levar's commitment to the job, claiming that he's become lax and uninterested in taking care of ward problems and services, but ward voters are not sufficiently alienated from Levar to oust him.

My prediction: Ward Democratic Committeeman Tom Lyons, the county party chairman, wants to bring in the biggest Northwest Side vote for Daley, and he has the precinct manpower to do it. Daley got 15,766 votes in the 45th Ward in 1999, but he'll barely crack 10,000 this time -- which won't be the area's highest. Levar was unopposed in 1999, and he got 14,199 votes. When he ran for clerk of court in 2000, he got just 6,883 votes in the ward. This time, Levar will finish with 8,800 votes, to Conway's 3,400 and Best's 400.

41st Ward: Where's Capparelli? State Representative Ralph Capparelli, the ward's Democratic committeeman, is conspicuous by his absence from the 2003 campaign. Unlike Lyons, who is pushing hard for Daley in his ward, there is little or no Daley activity in the 41st Ward. Capparelli has not endorsed any aldermanic candidate.

Incumbent Brian Doherty, a Republican, is a solid favorite to win a fourth term. Doherty didn't want (and didn't get) Daley's endorsement, for Daley is reviled by many city police and firefighters, but Doherty has been generally supportive of the mayor in the council. Capparelli endorsed Doherty in 1999. The alderman has his own precinct organization, which works in conjunction with that of state Representative Mike McAuliffe, the ward's Republican committeeman. Doherty also can expect another hundred or so workers from Rosemont Mayor Don Stephen's Leyden Township Republican Organization.

Of Doherty's four foes, Mike Marzullo has been the most active, walking precincts since last August. Shari Centrone and Gloria Jean Sykes, both from Norwood Park, are campaigning diligently. Chicago cop Wayne Dembowski rounds out the field. The foes uniformly chant that Doherty has been ineffectual, but they lack the money and manpower to get out their message and to crank out the presumptive anti-Doherty vote on Feb. 25. Anecdotal reports suggest that a good number of women voters will be inclined to back Sykes or Centrone, but having two female candidates divides that constituency.

My prediction: Doherty got 14,142 votes in 1999, and Daley got 18,091 in the ward. This time, Doherty will finish with just over 9,000 votes in a 15,500 turnout, with Marzullo a distant second and Sykes and Centrone just behind him.

35th Ward: The most endangered incumbent is Vilma Colom, who faces a challenge from Rey Colon in the Puerto Rican-majority ward. Colom is a longtime protege of Alderman Dick Mell (33rd), and he has the mayor's endorsement and that of the Hispanic Democratic Organization. But Colon is campaigning fiercely, and the outcome will be close. In a turnout of less than 6,500, Colom will win by 300 votes.

47th Ward: Old warhorses never die, but they eventually lose an election. 47th Ward Democratic Committeeman Ed Kelly would dearly love to oust his onetime protege, Alderman Gene Schulter, whom he calls an ingrate. Schulter tried to oust Kelly as committeeman in 2000, and he failed by 135 votes. Kelly is backing attorney Jack Lydon for alderman.

My prediction: Schulter was unopposed in 1999, getting 9,374 votes. He got 7,677 votes in 1995, beating Mike Buster, and in 1991, again unopposed, he got 10,102 votes. In 2000, Schulter got 4,706 votes for committeeman, to Kelly's 4,841. Lydon is not Kelly, and the nostalgia and affection factors which benefited Kelly won't help him. Turnout will be around 9,000, and Schulter will win with 5,500 votes.

30th Ward: The Hispanic Democratic Organization is solidly behind Ariel Reboyras in this newly created Hispanic-majority ward. The outgoing incumbent is Mike Wojcik. Three others are running: Julio Vargas, Jose Pagan and Miguel Sotomayor. Expect Reboyras to finish first, but with less than 50 percent of the vote, which will necessitate an April runoff with Pagan, who will finish second.

In other area wards, it will be "Incumbent's Day." In the 33rd Ward, Dick Mell will win with 75 percent; in the 50th Ward, Berny Stone will win with 67 percent; and in the 38th Ward, Tom Allen will win with 72 percent. Running unopposed are Bill Banks (36th), Marge Laurino (39th) and Pat O'Connor (40th).