Aug 11, 2021

Mayor Lori Lightfoot proclaimed recently in a podcast interview with The New York Times that a second term run for her is "not a gimme."

She may not run because she may not win, kind of like Rahm Emanuel decided not to seek reelection. Or she will not run because she knows that her mayoral stewardship by 2023 guarantees that she will not win when put to a referendum,
One thing is for sure, voters may be ready for a regime change.

It may stem from the ongoing repercussions of the Aug. 7 slaying of police officer Ella French, which is obviously not her fault, but she has to wear the hat for it on this. Or it may stem from a growing litany of problems that have only been compounding on her watch, crime being one of the main ones.

Something is wrong in this city, something is seriously out of control, when an officer gets shot in the face while making a traffic stop and dies. French may become a factor in the 2023 mayoral election, especially what her death will likely come to represent - lawlessness.

Some will contend that for minorities a traffic stop is a life-threatening event in which they may be killed by a cop. While that is a rational fear considering the track record of bad cops in the nation, for some the perfect world solution would be to strip ALL cops of their guns and have them approach vehicles unarmed. Or to not even make stops at all. Criminals are not stupid and they know what's going on in the police department and they feel emboldened.

Anyway, back to politics: Creating doubt is a shrewd Lightfoot strategy. Be non-committal. Give pause to the opposition. Make voters think that you are DOING THEM A FAVOR by maybe deigning to run again. How could Chicago survive without Mayor Lightfoot?

A groundswell will not be building for another 68 months of Lightfoot's leadership, or lack thereof. Should voters keep her around until April of 2027?

It's clear that she will likely dismiss critics who infer that she is incompetent, narcissistic and/or clueless as racist, sexist or homophobic. That's just how politics works.

Chicago, however, has a long history of mayors who had delusions of grandeur. Any public officeholder wants to leave a legacy as being transformational.

A non-Lightfoot future would NOT be devastating to Chicagoans. Unlike 2019, when voters had a binary choice between Lightfoot and Toni Preckwinkle, with Lightfoot the less unpalatable option, 2023 will be a binary referendum on her in a runoff, and if she is in an April 2023 runoff it means she didn't get 50 percent in the February primary, and that means half the voters want her gone.

"Doubt" is defined as to be uncertain in opinion or belief. To be undecided, skeptical or hesitant. To question the wisdom of one's decisions. Such as a potential 2023 mayoral contender deciding to start raising money (like about $10 million), make his or her intentions known, and get out front as the anti-Lightfoot alternative - and start criticizing the mayor's handling of crime and COVID-19 remediation.

Will Chicago's schools reopen - with or without masks? If the virus persists, as a variant of the variant into 2022, she gets the blame for lockdowns and closures. And if every non-holiday weekend continues to resemble Aug. 7 to 8, with 54 shootings, 84 victims and 13 killings, and if crime remains unabated, that would mean another 4,482 shootings, 6,972 victims and 1,097 killings by Feb. 2023, a total of 20 months (or 83 weeks), then she has a mega-crisis.

Chicago is already being mocked as an "outdoor shooting range." Maybe we should bring in the military and make Chicago a cease-fire zone? Lightfoot has been quoted as saying that crime is "sowing panic" among Chicagoans and that we need to "step up" police protection.

Yet her $12.8 billion 2021 budget does not fill the 614 vacancies caused by attrition (retirements), including 143 sergeant spots. That is now closer to 1,000, claimed Paul Vallas, Fraternal Order of Police lead negotiator for a new contract, with a lot of back pay. A new exodus is imminent, he said, accusing Lightfoot of using the pandemic as an excuse for the hiring slowdown. The city got $1.9 billion in federal COVID relief, which covered all budget shortfalls, but the CPD's needs were ignored.

The CPD's manpower was once at 12,500. Now it's at 11,000. The number of brass sitting at desks, the number of cops on furlough, the 75 to 175 beat cops pulled from districts for citywide units, and the three shifts, plus 2-person patrols, and there's under 1,000 cars at any one time patrolling the entire city.

Some new reform policies also ban high-speed auto pursuits, limit foot chases, eliminate stop-and-frisk, require triplicate paperwork for street contacts and require nametags to be visible and always wearing a bodycam. Some will applaud those moves. Most cops think they just make their jobs that much more dangerous and life threatening.

Looking to 2023, getting out early is risky. An anti-Lightfoot candidate would face a longer time of media scrutiny, and there will be donor hesitancy. As long as they DON'T KNOW Lightfoot's intentions no donor with a stake in city contracts is going to give anything to anybody except her.

According to the June 30 D-2s Lightfoot raised only $10,067 in the 2021 second quarter, but she had $1,177,305 on-hand. To be sure, a mayor can raise $10 million in a quarter, but Lightfoot needs $25 million and can't wait until the 3rd or 4th quarter of 2022.

Mark my words, Lori is running for reelection. To not do so would be an admission of failure. No mayor gives up power, and especially the trappings of power, willingly, unless it's to "spend time with family."

Of Chicago's 13 mayors over the past century, since 1915, not a single one has quit after one term. The power of incumbency can only be eclipsed and surpassed of the enormity of incompetence. And even the incompetent mayors, like William Dever (1923-27) and Michael Bilandic (1976-79), didn't quit without a fight.

Dever (D) was for prohibition in the Roaring 20s, and lost to Big Bill Thompson (R), Chicago's last Republican mayor, in 1927. The incredible, unending blizzard of the winter of 1978-79, and Bilandic's attendant inability to get streets plowed and snow removed, precipitated his upset by Jane Byrne. They proved unable to rise to the "challenge," refusing to recognize a "crisis."

To be sure, Lightfoot is not incompetent. But neither is she endearing or likeable, which is fine with her I think. According to recent news reports she is an ill-tempered perfectionist micro-manager. She wants it done her way. That's why a bunch of department heads have come and gone and it's a revolving door over there.

Vallas is the first out of the gate for the job. He is an educator, serving as Chicago's and Philadelphia's superintendent, with considerable political experience, but also a two-time loser. Now age 68 he was a top aide to Mayor Richard Daley in the 1990s, ran for governor in 2002 but lost the primary, and ran for mayor in 2019, getting 5.4 percent. By aligning himself with the FOP, Vallas is positioning himself as the erudite, not visceral, pro-police candidate, something a police officer as a candidate could not do.

Eric Adams, the Brooklyn borough president just did it in New York City. He is a former cop with a generally liberal record who positioned himself as the least anti-police candidate in a 13-person field. NYC has a ranked-choice system, which precludes a runoff, but he got the most Democratic primary votes and will be elected in a city where crime is surging and outgoing incumbent Bill de Blasio (D) is reviled.

Lightfoot, it will be recalled, got 17.5 percent in the 14- candidate non-partisan Feb. 2019, with Preckwinkle second with 16.1 percent. Lightfoot won the ensuing runoff 386,039- 137,765.
The 2023 field will be contracted, as it always is when an incumbent mayor is on the ballot. It's a referendum. The trick for Vallas will be to have a limited field like 2-3, and have them amass a cumulative vote of more than 50 percent precipitating an up-or-down vote on Lightfoot.

Alderman Ray Lopez (15th) has become a fixture on FOX News, and said he will dedicate himself to Lightfoot's defeat. He has a Southwest Side Hispanic base. He is what Vallas needs. They can get a combined vote that exceeds 50 percent.

A resultant runoff between Vallas and Lightfoot would end badly for the mayor. Can you think of a Chicago without Lori Lightfoot? I can.