May 16, 2018


There is a cure for voter apathy. And, for Chicagoans, that cure will be enthusiastically embraced by voters in the 2019 municipal elections when a bunch of politicians with expired shelf-lives will be tossed into the dumpster. The act of voting will be both fun and meaningful.
It is increasingly apparent that 2019's operative acronyms are ABR and ABAI, which mean ANYBODY BUT RAHM and ANYBODY BUT the ALDERMANIC INCUMBENT. In the 18 elections dating back to 1947 (not counting the 1977 and 1989 special mayoral elections), in which the mayor, clerk and treasurer, as well as all 50 aldermen were on the ballot, when interest in the mayor's race was tepid, the contest unexciting and turnout low, few aldermen were unseated. Conversely, in tumultuous years like 1947, 1955, 1963, 1975, 1983 and 1987, when voter turnout was high, so, too, was aldermanic turnover.

Even though Mayor Rahm Emanuel is raising campaign cash at a brisk clip, having $2,208,847 on-hand as of March 31 and having accumulated contributions of $2,094,391 since Jan. 1, 2017, there is no sense of inevitability regarding his re-election. Given the equally brisk clip at which candidates are announcing for mayor, it is entirely possible that there will be 12 to 15 ANYBODY BUT RAHMS on the ballot, that each will have some geographic, racial, gender, financial or demographic base so as to squeeze out 2 to 12 percent of the vote, that each will have local supporters who will be running their own ANYBODY BUT the ALDERMANIC INCUMBENTs, and that the mayor could stumble to a February primary win with 25 to 30 percent, setting up an April runoff.

If the citywide ABR vote is 70 to 75 percent, the mayor is doomed. If one of the ABR candidates exceeds the mayor's vote, and finishes first, the mayor is doomed. And if the ABR vote is more than 60 percent in specific wards, then the pro-Emanuel aldermanic incumbent is also doomed. Only very few aldermen can claim significant non-support of and separation from the Emanuel administration. An ABR voter is an ABIA voter.

The 2019 municipal primary is Feb. 26 and the runoff on April 2. It takes roughly 5,000 valid nominating petition signatures to run citywide, and 300 to 400 to run for alderman. The filing deadline is Nov. 26, so circulation begins Aug. 28. Anybody who expects to be a serious 2019 candidate needs to begin organizing and raising money right now.

33RD WARD: Alderman Deb Mell exemplifies that old adage of "be careful what you wish for, because you might get it." Richard Mell was a power broker and powerhouse during his aldermanic tenure from 1975 to 2013, and built a potent Democratic organization in a ward with a burgeoning Hispanic population. He made daughter Deb Mell a state representative in 2008, then had the mayor appoint her to the council in 2013, when he resigned. In 2015, due to Dick Mell's efforts, Deb Mell squeaked to election 4,103-2,779-1,289 over two foes. She won 18 of the ward's 28 precincts. Had she 18 fewer votes, a runoff between her and Tim Meegan, a CPS teacher, would have ensued. Emanuel lost the runoff 5,525-4,412.

In 2016, Dick Mell was defeated for committeeman by Aaron Goldstein 5,457-5,407, a margin of 50 votes, winning 12 precincts. Goldstein proved himself no powerhouse when he finished last in the 2018 Democratic primary for attorney general, getting just 813 of the 8,010 votes cast in the 33rd Ward, which includes Albany Park, North Park and Irving Park.

Deb Mell is now on her own, and had $97,264 on-hand as of March 31. Meegan is running again, as is Steve Spagnolo, a former aide to Alderman Michelle Smith (43rd). Goldstein is a likely candidate. Outlook: Expect everybody but Mell to be ABR, and expect a runoff.

40TH WARD: It is maritime tradition that captains go down with their sinking ship, and that is longtime Alderman Pat O'Connor's predicament in 2019. O'Connor is the mayor's council floor leader, which means he rounds up votes and SUPPORTS THE MAYOR ON EVERYTHING. If the Good Ship Emanuel goes down, some ABIAs will take out O'Connor, who has been alderman since 1979, and the likely suspect is Dianne Daleiden, a teacher who ran for alderman in 2015, losing 5,601-3,989, but winning 9 of 39 precincts, and then for committeeman in 2016, losing 6,532-5,431, but winning 13 precincts. Daleiden is the type of outsider/non-politician who could sell well in 2019. Also running is Ugo Okere, a college student, and Maggie O'Keefe, a community activist.

The ward encompasses Bowmanville and Andersonville. O'Connor had $118,749 on-hand as of March 31. But what does O'Connor say to get re-elected? That he's been around for 40 years? That the mayor is a swell guy? That none of Chicago's problems are his fault? Just give the mayor and I 4 more years to fix everything? Outlook: O'Connor can win only with a small candidate field and low primary turnout. If he gets into a runoff, he is toast.

47TH WARD: Quite amazingly, this gentrified and upscale Ravenswood-North Center-Lincoln Square-Roscoe Village ward, where the mayor resides, had a Republican alderman for 28 of the past 71 years. That won't ever happen again. In the 2016 Clinton-Trump contest, Clinton won nearly 80 percent. In the 2015 runoff, Emanuel got 63 percent. The ward also had a longtime political boss, Ed Kelly, whose machine finally disintegrated in 2011, when Ameya Pawar was elected alderman. That won't happen again.

Pawar is honoring two-term limit pledge, has been a periodic critic of the mayor, and a member of the "Progressive Caucus." He is not endorsing a successor. The leading candidate is Mike Negron, who was once Emanuel's $165,000-a year chief of policy. That makes him the "status quo" candidate. And in a ward with exceedingly high property values - and hence ballooning property taxes and water bills - that is not advantageous. Also running is Matt Martin, an assistant attorney general, Eileen Dordek, a social worker and abortion-rights activist, teacher James Karalus, restaurateur Gus Katsafaros, Jeff Jenkins, and Zach Kowitski, onetime aide to the state treasurer. Outlook: A runoff is certain, and Dordek will be in it. If it's her versus "Emanuel-Negron," she wins.

36TH WARD: Alderman Nick Sposato has acquired a reputation as the "Dynasty Buster," which in Chicago is a genuine public service. In 2011, against all odds, firefighter Sposato vanquished John Rice, remnant of the 36th Ward's Banks-DeLeo Dynasty. When Mell and his buddies chopped up that ward, appending Sposato's residence into the 38th Ward, where the Cullerton Dynasty had reigned since the 1930s, Sposato beat Alderman Tim Cullerton's successor, getting 53.6 percent over six candidates. Sposato is a conservative, has opposed Emanuel on many issues, particularly those involving "Sanctuary City" matters, but has supported Emanuel's budgets. He has worked closely with the CPS to build the as-yet un-named 1,200-student new school in Dunning, likely to be a freshman campus for Taft High School.

"I commend the mayor for his efforts in this (school) project," said Sposato. He resigned in 2017 as ward Democratic committeeman because of the party's "increasing liberalism" and the "farce" of slatemaking. Possible 2019 candidates include police officer Pete Kalenik and local gadfly Jason Quaglia. Outlook: Sposato had $53,058 on-hand as of March 31, is personally popular, and has promised that he will serve only one more term. He will win easily.

41ST WARD: Fluidity is what it takes to survive in this Far Northwest Side ward, which includes Edison Park, Norwood Park and Oriole Park. There are no parties, just alliances. And those alliances shift from election to election. Looking to 2019, Democratic committeeman Tim Heneghan will take on Alderman Anthony Napolitano, who won by 250 votes in 2015 over pro-Emanuel incumbent Mary O'Connor. O'Connor passed on the committeemanship to Heneghan in 2016. Napolitano has been anti-Emanuel, opposing all his budgets and all his fee and tax hikes.

Heneghan is allied with Mary Marwig, the 2016 Democratic candidate for state representative, whom Speaker Mike Madigan funded to the tune of $2 million against incumbent Mike McAuliffe, who is the ward's Republican committeeman. She is running again in 2018.

In 2016, Heneghan broke with state Senator John Mulroe (D-10), with whom he shared an office, because Mulroe was "neutral" in the McAuliffe-Marwig race. In 2015 McAuliffe was "neutral" in the O'Connor-Napolitano race because the Mulroe-O'Connor Democrats gave him a free pass in 2014. So, when McAuliffe needed Napolitano's help in 2016, the alderman was AWOL.

Outlook: Heneghan will be aligned with Emanuel in 2019 because he is aligned with Madigan-Marwig. Napolitano wins.

39TH WARD: To run or not to run, that is the question. The Laurino Dynasty has controlled the Sauganash-Edgebrook-Forest Glen-north Albany Park ward since 1965. Robert Murphy's 2015 mantra that "50 years is enough" kept Alderman Margaret Laurino to a 5,981-4,815 win, or 53.2 percent, her lowest ever, and Murphy won the committeemanship in 2016 6,075-5,035. Casey Smagala, director of development for the Albany Park Community Center, is running, but Murphy has not yet announced. Also running is Samantha Nugent, who has filed with the State Board of Elections.

"I'm running" in 2019 said Laurino when I last saw her. It won't be easy with her pro-Emanuel voting record.