March 27, 2019


Lightfoot?" Lori Lightfoot is not just going to defeat Toni Preckwinkle. She is going to trounce her - like in the realm of 56 to 58 percent.

To be sure, there remains a potential path to victory for Preckwinkle, but that is a very iffy proposition.

If turnout among whites and Hispanics collapses, with neither demographic finding the choice between the two satisfactory, and if black turnout explodes, Preckwinkle could win. Citywide turnout on Feb. 26 was 560,701. By comparison, it was 912,061 in the 2018 election, 1,115,664 in the 2016 election, and 592,524 in the 2015 Emanuel-Garcia runoff.

Lightfoot received 97,667 votes, or 17.5 percent in the primary. Preckwinkle got 89,343 votes or 16.1 percent. Where will the 373,691 votes for the other 12 candidates go, and how many won't vote at all?

Preckwinkle needs to find 176,000 more votes to get to 50 percent-plus one. To do that, Preckwinkle needs do the following:

(1) Win the 18 black-majority wards with 65 to 70 percent, and spike turnout by 75,000-100,000. The Feb. 26 turnout was 170,756, just 30 percent of the 564,334 registered voters, divided among the five black candidates. Preckwinkle got 44,418 votes, running second to Willie Wilson in 13 of those 18 wards, where Wilson received 47,107 votes. Some may say that because the next mayor will be African-American, there is no fervor in the black community and no racially charged incentive to vote. This resembles 2015's runoff, when just 195,669 blacks voted, with white incumbent Rahm Emanuel topping Hispanic challenger Chuy Garcia. 109,700-85,969. My prediction: 52 to 48 percent for Preckwinkle.

(2) Win the 14 Hispanic-majority wards at least 60 to 40 percent. Primary turnout was 115,593, with Susana Mendoza getting 20,669 votes, or 17.8 percent in the Hispanic wards. Obviously Mendoza's campaign energized few. Turnout will drop by a third, to under 100,000, with only the hardcore, committeeman-controlled base voting. Prediction: 60-40 for Lightfoot.
(3) Break-even in the 10 white north Lakefront and close-by wards, where turnout was 143,392 and Lightfoot received 27,704 votes. The pre-primary presumption was that Preckwinkle had appealed to older, wealthier white women. That didn't happen and will not happen. Prediction: 60-40 for Lightfoot.

(4) Break-even in the eight outlying white-majority wards, where primary turnout was 112,255 and the moderate/establishment/cap taxes vote for Daley/Joyce/Chico/ Vallas/Wilson was close to 60 percent, and the progressive/social change vote for Preckwinkle/ Lightfoot/Enyia/Mendoza was about 40 percent. Turnout will be down by a quarter, to about 90,000, with at least two-thirds of sour white voters opting for Lightfoot just to muck-up city government. Prediction: 60-40 for Lightfoot.

Preckwinkle's looming loss is entirely self-inflicted. She was the top progressive until 2015, but then went rogue - passing the soda tax, backing Berrios, taking Ed Burke's donations, and becoming party chairwoman. She abandoned her base for power, and they reciprocated. Prediction: This equates to Preckwinkle barely cracking 40 percent citywide.

39TH WARD: Can you say "Alderman Nugent?" Incumbent Margaret Laurino is retiring, and four candidates ran for the seat. The Feb. 26 finish was 4,396 votes for Samantha Nugent, 3,914 for Robert Murphy, 3,644 for Casey Smagala and 1,287 for Joe Duplechin. The respective percentages were 33.2, 29.6, 27.5 and 9.7.

"His showing was pathetic," said Smagala of Murphy, the ward's Democratic committeeman. "He's been campaigning (for alderman) for 5 years, and he got only 270 more votes than me." Turnout was 13,464, and 70.4 percent of them didn't vote for Murphy, a self-proclaimed progressive and reformer who told me he was the frontrunner before Feb. 26.

Smagala has a point. Murphy lost 5,981-4,815 to Laurino in 2015 and he won 6,075-5,034 for committeeman in 2016. He received 3,914 votes this time. His trajectory is not auspicious, especially since both Smagala and Duplechin have endorsed Nugent, as has State Representative John D'Amico (D-15), the alderman's nephew. Smagala, incidentally, is poised to challenge Murphy for his party post in 2020.

Indicative of his plight, Murphy has sent out three negative mailers attacking first-time candidate Nugent as an insider, the proof being that she has accepted money from past Laurino/D'Amico donors. Nugent had $110,931 on-hand as of Dec. 31, to Murphy's $57,517. A mom with kids and a former staffer for the county emergency management department, Nugent has had five mailings, and stresses practicality over ideology. Ward services, public safety, schools and infrastructure will be her priority, she said, and expects to spend $200,000.
The ward has 45 precincts and 32,971 registered voters, of which 13,464 turned out in the primary. Nugent campaigned vigorously door-to-door, finishing first in 17 precincts, getting a majority in two, and over 40 percent in nine, performing best in Sauganash. Murphy finished first in 16 precincts, got a majority in two, and over 40 percent in four, doing best in West Walker, Independence Park, Albany Park - all liberal areas - and home base Forest Glen. But Smagala, who campaigned relentlessly door-to-door for a year, won 11 precincts and received over 40 percent in four.

In the mayoral, the four liberal/progressive aspirants got 43.5 percent, with Lightfoot at 17.8 and Preckwinkle at 16.1 percent. The six establishment candidates got 49.1 percent, with Daley at 19 percent, but cracking 30 percent in just three precincts, and 20 percent in seven precincts. Lightfoot "will win" the ward, said Nugent. Prediction: In a 12,500 turnout, Nugent wins with 58 percent - 7,250-5,250.

47TH WARD: Can you say "Alderman Martin?" Retiring Alderman Ameya Pawar is running for city treasurer, and the top two aldermanic primary finishers were Matt Martin, a civil right attorney with the Illinois Attorney General, who got 7,586 votes, or 39.3 percent, to Michael Negron's 4,126 votes, or 21.4 percent. Negron was a policy director in the Emanuel administration, and is running in the ever-gentrifying Ravenswood/North Center ward where the outgoing mayor resides. In the 2019 political environment, an Emanuel connection is not helpful.

The 47th is a white and wealthy ward, which has median home values in excess of $600,000, and is trendily liberal. Just east of the Chicago River, it's the kind of neighborhood where everybody is supportive of affordable housing, as long as it's not on their block or in their ward, where renters are an endangered species, and where politics is a fashion statement. Identity politics rules, and Lightfoot is the flavor of the month. Were it a Daley-Preckwinkle runoff, they would be chirping about Toni. It has 39,593 registered voters, of which 19,678 turned out. About 31.7 percent (6,216) voted for Lightfoot, with Preckwinkle at 16.1 and Daley at 14.6 percent. April 2 will produce a Lightfoot-Pawar landslide of about 70 percent and the trickle-down a 60-62 percent win for Martin.

GAME-CHANGER IN THE 40TH WARD: When an alderman gets 33.3 percent in a primary, as Patrick O'Connor did on Feb. 26, amassing 4,446 votes out of 13,353 cast, he is runoff DOA. But when his runoff opponent is now revealed to be a "battle rapper" who in the past has written lyrics and sung rap music which is perceived as "homophobic" and "misogynist," then Andre Vasquez is DBA - dead before arrival.

"He insults every woman," said candidate Dianne Daleiden, who finished third with 2,296 votes, or 17.2 percent.

"We need change" in the ward, "but he is not the kind of change we need," she said. And, added Daleiden, Vasquez "is a renter, and has no concept of the tax burden on property owners." Neither Daleiden nor Maggie O'Keefe, who finished fourth with 2,058 votes, or 15.4 percent, are endorsing Vasquez, who ran as a "democratic socialist" and got 2,683 votes, or 20.1 percent.

I predicted a Vasquez win. But now that I think about it, instead of the 66.8 percent anti-O'Connor vote coalescing behind Vasquez, the anti-Vasquez vote - meaning Daleiden's and O'Keefe's 22.6 percent - is coalescing behind O'Connor. That boosts O'Connor to the 55 percent range. The 1,870 votes of "democratic socialist" Ugo Okere, will go to Vasquez.

REVISED Prediction: O'Connor wins 7,400-6,100 in a 13,500 turnout. Lightfoot, who finished first in the ward with 3,827 votes, will carry it 65 to 35 percent in the runoff.

31ST AND 30TH WARDS: How low can the Hispanic runoff turnout in these Northwest Side wards go? It was 7,438 in the 30th and 6,419 in the 31st. Aldermen Ariel Reboyras (30th) and Millie Santiago (31st) are seeking re-election. Luis Gutierrez, the former congressman, is backing daughter Jessica Gutierrez in the 30th Ward, as is state representative Luis Arroyo (D-3), committeeman of the 36th Ward, just to the west. Reboyras topped her 3,563-3,536, or 47.9-47.5 percent, missing a win by 157 votes. Early polls showed Reboyras down by 20 points.

Berrios, ousted in 2018 as assessor and county party chairman, supported Felix Cardona in his 31st Ward against Santiago, who won by 79 votes in 2015. The primary vote was 2,588-2,132, or 40.3-33.2 percent. Arroyo backs Santiago. Prediction: Turnout will be 25 percent. Reboyras and Cardona will win.

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