February 20, 2019


Never say that procrastination is not hard work. Chicago's voters are drenched in procrastination as they contemplate their Feb. 26 mayoral choices. They know the consequences of their decision, which can be summarized as: DON'T SCREW THIS UP.
Confronted with a field of 14 mayoral candidates, and aware that the next mayor has to find $2 billion to fund city pensions in 2020, voters - especially those who own property - are grappling, gasping and fumbling: Who is least likely to screw up the most over the next 4 years?

Just days before the primary there has been a flurry of surge, sizzle, fizzle and fluff. And what is amazing is that one or both of the two candidates who will advance to the April 2 runoff, and be the next mayor, will have 80 to 85 percent of Chicagoans voting AGAINST him or her on Feb. 26. Voters are not yet ready to make a decision, to evaluate the options and thus turnout will be astoundingly low, probably around 670,000 of the city's registered voters. But that will starkly change on April 2, when the choice will narrow to Toni Preckwinkle and Bill Daley, who I predict will be in the runoff.

Here is a current snapshot: It's all about "pockets," which means capturing 25 to 30 percent in one or more geographic, gender, ideological or racial demographic. The political expectancy is that Preckwinkle has broken the 20 percent barrier, but that her ceiling is 21 to 22 percent. Bunched at 10 to 12 percent are Daley, Willie Wilson and Susana Mendoza, with the first two on an upswing, Daley peaking at 15 to 16 percent, and Mendoza stalling. African-American turnout will be about 30 to 33 percent, and Wilson is taking votes away from Preckwinkle. Mendoza was thought to be 2019's perfect practitioner of "identity" politics ­- young, female and Hispanic. But she has some odious connections, and Hispanic turnout will be anemic.

The third tier, bunched around 7 to 9 percent, consists of Lori Lightfoot, Gery Chico and Jerry Joyce. Chico blew cash on early TV ads, got some traction, but peaked too soon. Paul Vallas attempted to position himself as everybody's second- or third-choice, but that is absurd when 20 to 25 percent of the voters don't even have a first choice. And the two biggest fizzles have been former CPD superintendent Garry McCarthy and Amara Enyia, who had the fringes open to them, and bungled it. Neither will break 3 percent.

PRECKWINKLE has built a large coalition, consisting of younger blacks, white women and public sector employees. She is well-known, has had a huge TV and media presence, funded by SEIU, AFSCME and CTU, but is neither well-liked nor trusted. Her black base is splintered by WILSON, a wealthy entrepreneur who got 10.7 percent in 2015, and appeals to older blacks, and to many Republicans, as he reportedly voted for Trump in 2016 and has declared that he wants to CUT taxes. When was the last time THAT happened in Chicago?

A PRECKWINKLE-DALEY runoff would be racially polarizing, and the Hispanic vote determinative. DALEY has raised the most money ($7.25 million), and his appeal is to those procrastinators who want a safe 2019 choice, which means a competent, caretaker pro-business mayor for 4 years. Daley will take the blame for some hard choices, and then let the blacks and Hispanics battle for the Big Prize in 2023. Daley is getting serious pushback from retirees and unions, as he has not foreclosed the possibility of changing the state constitution regarding pensions. Daley is age 70, and Preckwinkle 71, so their longevity as mayor is limited. CHICO ran for mayor in 2011, getting 141,228 votes to Emanuel's 326,331. But that vote was essentially anti-Emanuel and anti-Machine. Chico's base has been co-opted by Daley and Mendoza.

MENDOZA, the current state comptroller, has ascended through the political ranks due to the patrimony of Ed Burke, Mike Madigan and Rahm Emanuel, rising with their assistance from state representative to city clerk to her state job, and hauling in cash from trade unions. Her TV ads proclaim that she is the "future," but according to one union operative, Mendoza is just fluff. "It would be the same old, same old," he said. Mendoza needs a heavy Hispanic turnout on Feb. 26, and needs to take 80 percent of it against Preckwinkle and Chico. I don't think that is going to happen.

LIGHTFOOT, the former police board chairwoman, has stated that she doesn't make her sexuality a part of her campaign. However, Chicago's gay population is estimated to be around 5 percent, which could generate up to 40,000 votes. In certain areas, especially along the north Lakefront and west into Bowmanville, Andersonville and Ravenswood, there is an "anger" vote - those who deem Trump era politics to be racist, sexist, homophobic and misogynistic. Those who are contemptuous of capitalism, care not a wit about property taxes, and want rent control. They want to send a message, and Lightfoot is their 2019 messenger. Lightfoot has stolen Enyia's base.

There are 1,503,353 registered voters in Chicago; Feb. 26 turnout will be 670,000, far less than expected. Preckwinkle will get 139,000, to Daley's 102,000. The 3-4-5-6-7 finishers will be Wilson, Mendoza, Joyce, Lightfoot and Chico.

41ST WARD: Nestled on the city's Far Northwest Side, containing Edison Park, Norwood Park and Oriole Park, residents have long become accustomed to being ignored by City Hall, short-changed on services and infrastructure, and over-taxed. But they expect and demand that their alderman at least fight the good fight, and be seen and heard. Anthony Napolitano has done just that, opposing Emanuel Administration spending and tax hikes, so-called police reforms, and affordable housing and density pressures.

Napolitano is a former police officer-turned-firefighter in a ward packed with first responders, with their (and their families') votes numbering around 2,000. The ward has 36,454 registered voters (see chart). Napolitano waged an underdog 2015 campaign against incumbent Mary O'Connor, whom voters perceived as being too much of an ally to Emanuel, and too rarely seen and heard. Napolitano beat her 9,702-9,087 in the runoff.

Napolitano points to new school annexes at over-crowded Ebinger and Dirksen, and a hockey rink at Norwood Park, as his top accomplishments. He opposed developments in Edison Park and on the Marriott property on Higgins which included affordable housing set-asides because of density and school crowding grounds. There will be no April 2 runoff, as Napolitano faces only one opponent, Democratic ward committeeman Tim Heneghan, an O'Connor protege.

Heneghan was endorsed by the Chicago Sun-Times and Tribune due to his support for affordable housing. Napolitano is busy with mailings and yard signs and ward problems.

41st Warders tend to keep their aldermen around, like Roman Pucinski (1973-91) and Brian Doherty (1991-2011). But they need to know that their alderman is on their side. Napolitano will be around for a while. Heneghan will struggle to crack 35 percent.