June 13, 2018


Multiple crossover niches + 27 percent of the vote = 150,000 votes = runoff = next mayor of Chicago. That is the political formula for defeating Rahm Emanuel in 2019.

A niche is defined as a place or position particularly suitable to the person or thing in it. In a multi-candidate contest, as in the developing 9-candidate mayoral contest, niches can be worth anywhere from five to 25 percent of the vote, and the candidate who grabs a solid majority in two or three anti-Emanuel niches will finish second in the Feb. 26 primary, and move on to the April 2 runoff, likely against Emanuel.

The mayor, however, doesn't have a niche. He has money and power. Influential special interests, which are benefiting from his incumbency through jobs and contracts, will give him money. Next year will be a referendum on him and his stewardship of the city. Is Chicago more livable today than in 2011 or 2015? If not, then don't re-elect him. If you want the status quo, then keep him.

There are five core quality-of-life issues, including crime and public safety, education and quality of schools, property values and neighborhood viability, taxes and services and streets, transportation and recreation. Emanuel is definitely challenged on crime and taxes.

Each niche, like LGBTQ, Republicans, conservatives, public sector and trade unions, city workers, Bernie Sanders' voters, anti-Trump zealots, #MeToo, African Americans, Hispanics, the "cop vote," white non-college-educated men, renters, feminists, retirees, Lakefront liberals, Jews, and Hillary Clinton and regular Democrat voters, have specific and different priorities and self-interests, some of which overlap with other niches, but many of which do not. So candidates need to be inclusive while not being offensive, and still address quality-of-life issues.

Thus far, with a nominating petition filing deadline of Nov. 26, 2018, there are nine announced candidates: six African American candidates, three white men and two women, both of whom are black. The white men are Emanuel, former Chicago schools chief executive officer Paul Vallas, and former Chicago police superintendent Garry McCarthy. The most known African American candidates are businessman Willie Wilson, who got 10.6 percent in 2015, former police board president Lori Lightfoot, Clerk of Circuit Court Dorothy Brown, and Troy LaRaviere, former CPS principal and president of the Chicago Principals and Administrators Association. Lesser-known candidates are Neal Sales-Griffin and Ja'Mal Green. Here is an early breakout of who is in what niche:

(Bridget Gainer, a Lakeview county commissioner, mulled a mayoral run but has apparently decided to run for county board president in 2022, when Toni Preckwinkle is expected to retire.)

GARRY McCARTHY: The former top cop has a whole bunch of niches, and a whole bunch more that detest him. Chicago's "cop vote" is generally pegged at about 30,000. That includes the 11,000-plus sworn officers who must live in the city, plus their spouses and adult children, as well as retirees who have not split for Arkansas, Wisconsin or points southward. McCarthy will get 65 to 70 percent of that vote. Given the "siege mentality" affecting police doing their jobs, a vote for McCarthy is a great way to stick it to the ACLU and liberals in general. Having McCarthy as mayor would be like Donald Trump in Washington. The city would be racially, ideologically and politically polarized. His opponents would harass him at every opportunity, creating gridlock.

Additional niches include the city's meager contingent of Republicans, conservatives, and 2016 Trump voters. A total of 31,535 voters took a Republican ballot in the 2018 primary, with 16,617 voting for Bruce Rauner and 14,267 for Jeanne Ives, his right-wing foe. In 2016, Trump got 135,317 votes, or 12.4 percent, in the city, and in 2014 Rauner got 135,431, or 20.6 percent, in the city. That's a Republican election base of 135,000, and the only palatable 2019 candidate for them is McCarthy.

Then there is also the law-and-order vote. Voters who face daily crime may also find McCarthy palatable.

PAUL VALLAS: The former CPS CEO and former Daley Administration budget director and revenue director has been kicking around for a long time, did a stint in Philadelphia, and lost the 2002 governor primary to Rod Blagojevich 457,197-431,728-363,591, with Vallas getting 34.5 percent. In Chicago, however, Vallas got 29.4 percent of the vote and ran well in the black-majority wards. He is trying to carve out a niche as "the most competent" alternative to Emanuel, and has been ripping the mayor as a "bully" who is responsible for surging crime and festering CPS problems like the sexual violence scandal.

Chicago's population is roughly 42 percent black, 32 percent white and 26 percent Hispanic, but whites make up just under half of the voter pool, while black registered voters are 41 percent and Hispanics 10 percent. That means the mayor, to get 40 percent of the total vote and finish first in the primary, needs half the white and Hispanic vote, and 10 to 15 percent of the black vote. A showing of less than 40 percent would be catastrophic for the mayor. Vallas and McCarthy are competing for the rest of the white vote. If they split that evenly, then they are each only in the 20 percent range.

LORI LIGHTFOOT, WILLIE WILSON, DOROTHY BROWN & TROY LaRAVIERE: Of these four, only Lightfoot, who is the first openly lesbian candidate running for mayor, and LaRaviere, who has been hammering the mayor's CPD and CPS policies, have a niche beyond the black base. Lightfoot's is with the LGBTQ community, which could deliver 3 to 5 percent and with white feminists and younger unmarried women who, in the #MeToo age, would likely vote for a woman. Her hurdle is to get half the black vote, which means half of the middle-aged, possibly socially conservative black women, putting her around 20 to 25 percent overall. Lightfoot has been attacked for "turning on Rahm" after he gave her the CPD job. She raised $230,000 through June. LaRaviere, who got fired when Emanuel closed his school, is especially appealing to the niche that is aggrieved by Laquan McDonald and alleged police over-reactions, as well as the Our Revolution niche, which is comprised of the 2016 Bernie Sanders primary voters. Clinton beat Sanders in Chicago 380,208-320,894. The city has an estimated 250,000 black voters. If either Lightfoot or LaRaviere put together coalition, and don't split it, one could make the runoff

Brown, in 2007, got 91,878 votes for mayor, and Wilson, in 2015, got 50,960 - hardly a resounding showing. Wilson, in April, gave $100,000 to his campaign, but that is puny compared to Emanuel's current $6.3 million, with the mayor on-track to raise $25 million.

Total citywide voter registration is 1,494,199, and turnout in the 2016 presidential election was 1,115,664, or about 70 percent. In 2015, turnout in the primary was 483,700, and turnout in the runoff was 590,733.

In the 2015 runoff, Emanuel beat Chuy Garcia 332,171-258,562 because he won every black-majority ward and all but one white ward. Because he went negative, making Garcia the issue instead of himself, Emanuel's vote went from 218,217 in the primary to 332,171 in the runoff, meaning that his increase was an anti-Garcia vote, not a pro-Emanuel vote. He will have to do likewise in 2019, which means hoping for a flawed runoff opponent, and being voters' second choice.

If it's Emanuel-Lightfoot or Emanuel-LaRaviere, then white and Hispanic voters will stick with the mayor as the least offensive choice. If it's Emanuel-McCarthy, then black and Hispanic voters will stick with the mayor. Only Vallas can win a runoff, as only he is sufficiently unpolarizing to coalesce all the anti-Emanuel voters - which will be about 60 percent or more - behind his candidacy.

Active Hispanic voters, which number about 55,000, have been assiduously courted by Emanuel, especially his "Sanctuary City" policies and $1.3 million city defense fund to block deportation of undocumented immigrants. If about a third of the 2015 Garcia voters shift to Emanuel this time, he offsets some of his loss among blacks.

Nevertheless, Emanuel has serious problems. A recent study by DePaul University's Institute of Housing Studies indicated that 44.2 percent of Chicagoans are renters. These are renters who might not care as much about politics, or spend little time watching TV ads. The other 55 percent - homeowners and especially retirees - are seething about Emanuel's hikes in property taxes, water fees and phone taxes to fund various city pensions.

The public sector unions - Service Employees International Union (SEIU), SEIU Healthcare, and American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) - got good city worker contracts, and will likely take a pass in the mayoral, focusing on the aldermanic elections. The trades are already funding Emanuel heavily, with money pouring in from the Teamsters and Operating Engineers. The Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) will be resolutely behind LaRaviere, while gay rights groups will be supporting Lightfoot.

Emanuel has no special appeal to female voters, but he backed Clinton strongly in the 2016 primary, and her 380,208 votes is testament to the ability of some white Democratic organizations' ability to deliver, and white voter resistance to the party's rampaging liberalism.
My prediction: Emanuel will get 37 percent, and face Lightfoot in the runoff.