January 23, 2019


To be or not to be "rabid," "robust" or "tepid" - that is the Shakespearean identity crisis afflicting voters who reside along Chicago's north Lakefront and the adjacent upscale, gentrifying areas.

Virtually everybody claims to be ideologically and culturally "progressive" in varying degrees, but in the 2019 aldermanic contests those "rabidly" progressive are battling with those "robustly" progressive, and they intensely dislike each other. They also both despise those who are "tepidly" progressive, deeming them gutless. And all revile those who are non-progressive, which means Republicans and/or Trump voters, deemed to be some kind of soon-to-be-extinct sub-species.

There used to be a correlation between wealth accumulation and political affiliation. The wealthier, particularly the property-owning class, were inclined to be politically conservative and vote Republican, or at least not for excessively liberal Democrats, and the poorer, largely the rental class, habitually voted Democrat. Not anymore. Over four-fifths of Lakefronters vote for every Democrat over any Republican, but a deep class division exists between the wealthier (meaning robust) and the less-wealthy (meaning rabid) progressives. When the "rabids" propose piling more taxes on the "wealthy," the "robusts/tepids" understand that they're not talking about McHenry County Republicans.

The Lakefront encompasses nine wards and stretches from the north Loop and the Michigan Avenue Gold Coast to Old Town and Lincoln Park, then through Lakeview and Wrigleyville, then Uptown, Edgewater and into Rogers Park at the Evanston line. They are numbered 42-49, with the 42nd Ward the southernmost and most upscale and the 49th Ward the northernmost and least upscale. Just to the west, east of the Chicago River, are the 32nd Ward (Bucktown, Wicker Park) and the 47th Ward (Ravenswood, Lincoln Square), both explosively gentrifying and booming commercially. To the north is the less upscale 50th Ward (West Rogers Park), with a large Third World and Orthodox Jewish population.

As can be discerned from the chart, progressives massively out-number non-progressives. The 2016 Clinton-Trump vote in those nine wards was 201,075-33,169, or 85.8 percent for the Democrat in a 234,244 turnout. The Trump vote declined from south to north, with 20.1 percent in the 42nd Ward to 7.6 percent in the 49th Ward. Trump's best was in the 50th Ward, where his pro-Israel stance got him 26.6 percent.

A demarcation of the progressives' division was clear in the 2016 Clinton-Sanders presidential primary, which socialist Sanders won 67,385-67,153. Of the 134,548 Lakefronters who chose a Democratic nominee, half embraced Clinton, the establishment candidate, but it cannot be presumed that all of Sander's voters were rabid progressives. Probably half voted for Sanders because Clinton was insufficiently liberal, and the rest because of Sander's socialism. Again, the divide was southmost owners versus northmost renters, with Clinton getting 60.7 percent in the 42nd Ward (Gold Coast), 58.1 percent in the 43rd Ward (Lincoln Park), 52.8 percent in the 44th Ward (Lakeview) and 51.4 percent in the 46th Ward (Uptown), dipping under half, to 49.9 percent in the 48h Ward (Edgewater), 42.9 percent in the 49th Ward (Rogers Park), and 48.5 percent in the 50th Ward (West Rogers Park), along with 44.3 percent in the 32nd Ward (Wicker Park) and 43.9 percent in the 47th Ward (Ravenswood).

A further demarcation is seen in the 2015 Emanuel-Garcia runoff, which the mayor won 80,481-38,386, or 67.7 percent. Garcia ran as the "progressive," but lost eight of nine Lakefront wards. Emanuel represented stability, continuity and the status quo, while Garcia represented a risky change that could be financially detrimental. Garcia got pounded, getting 15.1, 16.6, 23.7, 35.3, 37.1, 37.7, 39.1 and 40.6 percent, respectively, in wards 42, 43, 44, 46. 47. 32, 50 and 48. In the 49th Ward, Garcia go 51.6 percent.

Note that the 2015 turnout was 16,000 less than the 2016 primary and 116,000 less than the 2016 election, which was 234,244. Clearly, the 2015 Garcia vote (38,386) is the hardcore "rabid" base, which constituted about 60 percent of Sanders 67,385 Lakefront votes. Going into 2019, the rabid/Garcia vote will be 10 to 15 percent higher than 2015's, and turnout will be up to about 170, 000-180,000, with a lot of change-everything-now voters in the mix. That puts the Alderman Joe Moore at grave risk in the 49th Ward, where Sanders got 56.7 percent and Garcia 51.6 percent; Alderman James Cappleman at some risk in the 46th Ward, where Sanders got 48.1 percent and Garcia 35.2 percent; and, due to her own political weakness, Alderman Michelle Smith in the 43th Ward, where she won 7,232-7,153 in the 2015 runoff and Sanders got 41.5 percent. The open 47th Ward seat, vacated by Ameya Pawar, who is running for city treasurer, features nine candidates, the most formidable being Michael Negron, Emanuel's former policy chief, Heather Way Kitzes, Jeff Jenkins, and Tom Schwartzers, all robust progressives; and Matt Martin and Eileen Dordek, who are competing for the rabid progressive vote, with Angie Maloney the "democratic socialist." A runoff is certain.

49TH WARD: Moore's problem is that he has been around just too long, making it impossible to reinvent and repackage himself after 28 years. He proclaims that he was a progressive back in 1991, is still a progressive today and that Chicago has caught up with him. He says his experience merits another term. Half the ward's population live in apartments, and 40 percent of the voters were toddlers or younger when Moore, age 60, was elected. "It's time for him to go," said Maria Hadden, Moore's only Feb, 26 opponent. Moore had $127,820 on-hand as of Dec. 31, but money can't cure his ills.

The alderman suffered a body blow when iconic former alderman and former Cook County Clerk David Orr tabbed Moore a "rubber-stamp" for Emanuel, and endorsed Hadden, a social organizer also backed by the CTU. 2019 will be a year when voters want somebody different, and Hadden is young, African-American, female and a rabid progressive. She will win with 57 to 60 percent.

43RD WARD: Alderman Michele Smith is seeking her third term where residential and commercial density has created massive, perpetual congestion. The Lincoln Yards development, funded partially by $900 million in TIF money, will make it worse. Smith has raised $271,000, and she faces five opponents, the most formidable being Derek Lindblom, a former counsel in the mayor's economic development department, who has raised $287,000, and Leslie Fox, a political operative dating back to the 1990s (and whose husband was a Jane Byrne staffer). All are status quo, establishment liberals with ties to Emanuel, who won the ward with 83.4 percent in 2015. Expect a Smith-Lindblom runoff and a Lindblom upset.

44TH WARD: 16-year incumbent Tom Tunney and the Chicago Cubs (and the Ricketts family) have had a long hate-hate relationship, with the Ricketts pumping in an estimated $1 billion since 2009 for improvements in and around Wrigley Field, including a hotel, restaurants, bars and an office building next to the park. The Ricketts allegedly funded mailers in 2018 blasting Tunney for "standing in the way" of development, to which Tunney retorted that he is a "pro-business alderman" and that the Ricketts want to "push out everything that is not theirs" from the area.

Tunney faces three foes. Austin Baidas, who once worked for Pat Quinn, Pat Shine, and Elizabeth Shydlowski, who has Republican connections. In Wrigleyville, DON'T TOUCH MY PARKING SPACE is constituents' priority, and rabid progressives are out-of-the-ballgame. Tunney will win with 60 percent.

47TH WARD: "Progressives in the 47th Ward are not like the progressives in the 49th Ward," said one candidate, comparing Ravenswood to Rogers Park. That is spot on. The 47th Ward has median home values of $750,000, has $1 million-plus condos along Lawrence Avenue, and has a vibrant Lincoln Square commercial district. And, while capitalism thrives and wealth accrues, renters are becoming rarer or getting priced out. One candidate characterizes the ward, which had a whopping 32,551 turnout in 2016, as one-third "very progressive," 30 percent "somewhat," and the rest "moderate." Those espousing more city taxes, more police oversight, rent control, and a city income tax have a limited audience. Dordek, a feminist and a LGBTQ activist, and Martin, an African-American lawyer, are going for the rabid vote. Negron and Kitzes, a Cubs executive, are going for the robusts. Negron had $212,000, Kitzes $38,000, Dordek $208,000 and Martin $71,000 on-hand. Expect a Negron-Dordek runoff.

46TH WARD: Uptown isn't a total dump anymore. Gentrification has set in. Cappleman, elected in 2011, has five opponents, the most active being teacher Ericka Wozniak Francis, backed by the Chicago Teachers Union, and scientist Marianne Lalonde. Cappleman won the 2015 runoff 7,035-6,065. Expect a 2019 Cappleman-Francis runoff.