Chicago election choice, the lesser of two evils

Election Analysis: Jesus Garcia may have the Washington coalition behind him, but it’s not enough to defeat Mayor Rahm Emanuel in a one-on-one contest. In this Chicago election analysis, it’s clear that the big losers are the voters. Mayor Emanuel has done a poor job at governing while his main challenger has done a poor job campaigning.

By Ray Hanania

Ray Hanania NewGarcia was never prepared to be mayor of Chicago, and you can see it in his faltering campaign. His messages are unclear. His strategy is based on a lie that the Harold Washington coalition was ever strong enough to elect anyone. It wasn’t.

The Washington legacy is all that Garcia really has, but clearly it is not enough.

People forget that Washington, who was a great Chicago mayor, won with less than a majority of votes in 1983. He received only 37 percent of the vote. Jane Byrne, the incumbent, won only 33 percent of the vote and Cook County States Attorney Richard M. Daley received only 30 percent of the vote.

The truth is, 63 percent of Chicagoans voted against Harold Washington that year. It would have been an embarrassing landslide loss, had the election been based on a one-on-one challenge.

Racial politics played big in 1983 and most Whites and Hispanics voted for Byrne or Daley. Even a sizable segment of the African American voters cast their votes against Harold Washington for Byrne or Daley.

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The Washington Coalition strength is around 36 percent
of the vote. That’s enough to win a crowded field
to enter a run-off, but not enough
to win a mayoral election one-on-one.

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So how can someone like Garcia, who is no Harold Washington, expect to win the mayoral election next week in Chicago?

Garcia can’t mainly because his candidacy has been limited to being defined as the Washington Legacy candidacy.

Jesus Chuy Garcia had the backing of progressive and some members of the old Harold Washington Coalition but his base is the Hispanic community.

Jesus Chuy Garcia had the backing of progressive and some members of the old Harold Washington Coalition but his base is the Hispanic community.

With the backing of the revived Washington Coalition, it’s not just a coincidence that Garcia’s popularity is only tracking about 36 percent in the polls. That a reflection of his core support, right where Washington landed percentage-wise in a three-way race. And, if this were a three-way race, as it was on February 24 when he secured his run-off position, Garcia would win again with the largest plurality.

But April 7 is not a three-way race. It is a two-way race. And Chicago elections are not really about which candidate is great. It’s about relativity. Who is “better?” And “better” sometimes doesn’t mean “great” or even “good.” Sometimes it just means “acceptable.” And sometimes, it means “bad.”

Mayor Emanuel has shown that his first term in office has been a disaster. Mayor Emanuel has allowed his personal racial and religious views cloud his judgment about inclusion, diversity and fairness. Emanuel is not an open mayor at all. He is a closed mayor whose policies have been driven by a sense of toughness that really is a personality of meanness. Emanuel has acted more like a bully than a mayor.

It’s possible that this election may humble Mayor Emanuel and make him heel to the pressures of justice, ethics, morality and even civil rights, the very issues Mayor Emanuel turned his back on during his first four years in office.

Mayor Emanuel has coddled his pals, ignored constituents purely because of their race and religion, and stumbled through efforts to address Chicago’s growing problems.

In comparison to Garcia, Mayor Emanuel is “better.”

The irony is that the only person who could have won more than 50 percent in the run-off election was the candidate who couldn’t get enough votes to run second in the February 24 open primary, Ald. Bob Fioretti.

Fioretti had what it takes to build alliances among White constituents, and also with Black and Hispanic voters, too.

Fioretti lost because the old Washington Coalition managed to cough out 36 percent of the vote for Garcia, more than enough to place second in a large field of candidates against Mayor Emanuel. But not enough to win the April 7 election. Garcia will get more votes from voters angry with Emanuel, but not enough to win.

In contrast, had Fioretti won the February 24 election, Mayor Emanuel would be staring down a landslide defeat. Rahm Emanuel, of one of the most unpopular mayors Chicago has ever had in its history. But that’s not enough for Chicago voters to throw him out of office.

Ald Bob Fioretti had strong support from African American voters.

Ald Bob Fioretti had strong support from African American voters.

The day after Fioretti endorsed Mayor Emanuel, Mayor Emanuel’s polling numbers finally shot past the 50 percent mark. Of the 18 percent undecided votes before Fioretti endorsed Mayor Emanuel, the majority is going to Emanuel who was pulling about 47 percent in Chicagoland polls compared to 37 percent for Garcia before Fioretti made his endorsement.

Politicians may lie, but numbers don’t. They’re good indicators, if not precise.

Garcia is a good person. He’s a decent family man. But a lot of people are supporting him out of loyalty and friendship, not because of a strategic belief that he can win. While many people dislike Mayor Emanuel, it doesn’t mean they will like Garcia, who has failed to show himself to be a leader with new ideas to raise Chicago out of its economic troubles and the brutality of a street-gang crime wave.

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Mayor Rahm Emanuel is one of the most disliked mayor’s Chicago
has ever had. But apparently, he is not the least liked candidate

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Regardless of whether Garcia wins or loses, he will come out looking like a champion. He will be credited with knocking everyone else out of the contender field and making Mayor Emanuel atone for his lack of character, racism and many failures (from street gang crime, to loss of jobs) during his first term as mayor.

Mayor Emanuel, on the other hand, has had his future ambitions permanently crippled by this election. His mean-spirited mayoral conduct has made him look like a bully, and it has become such a focus of the election that the public won’t easily forget that perception any time soon.

Mayor Emanuel had more than $14 million in his campaign fund and he still couldn’t close the deal until the very end before he endured six months of speculation that he might lose. That speculation has done more damage to his reputation than his sometimes disgraceful conduct in disrespecting community groups in Chicago.

Like I have said before, I feel sorry for Chicago residents. As a City Hall reporter for 17 years, I’ve seen what a great mayor looks like and what a terrible mayor looks like. Mayor Rahm Emanuel is lucky that chance fell his way and Garcia surfaced as his challenger.

Had Fioretti become the challenger to Emanuel in the February 24 election, Mayor Emanuel would be considering his retirement today.

But victory is another page. If Mayor Emanuel truly has learned a lesson from this election experience, maybe it is enough to force him to change.

(Ray Hanania is a former Chicago City Hall reporter, 1976-1992, and managing editor of Illinois News Network. He is President/CEO of Urban Strategies Group media consulting. Reach him at [email protected].)

Ray Hanania

Ray Hanania

Blogger, Columnist at Illinois News Network Online
Ray Hanania is senior blogger for the Illinois News Network news site. He is an award winning former Chicago City Hall political reporter and columnist who covered the beat from 1976 through 1992 (From Mayor Daley to Mayor Daley). And, Hanania is a stubborn and loud critic of the biased mainstream American news media.

Hanania Chicago political beats and Chicago City Hall at the Daily Southtown Newspapers (1976-1985) and the Chicago Sun-Times (1985-1992). He published the The Villager Community Newspapers covering 12 Southwest suburban regions (1993-1997). Hanania also hosted live political news radio talkshows on WLS AM (1980 - 1991), and also on WBBM FM, WLUP FM, WSBC AM in Chicago, and WNZK AM in Detroit.

Hanania is the recipient of four (4) Chicago Headline Club “Peter Lisagor Awards” for Column writing. In November 2006, he was named “Best Ethnic American Columnist” by the New American Media;In 2009, he received the prestigious Sigma Delta Chi Award for Writing from the Society of Professional Journalists. Hanania has also received two (2) Chicago Stick-o-Type awards from the Chicago Newspaper Guild, and in 1990 was nominated by the Chicago Sun-Times for a Pulitzer Prize for his four-part series on the Palestinian Intifada.

Hanania’s writings have been published in newspapers around the world. He currently is syndicated through Creators Syndicate. He has written for the Jerusalem Post, YNetNews.com, Newsday in New York, the Orlando Sentinel, the Houston Chronicle, The Daily Star of Lebanon, the News of the World in London, the Daily Yomimuri in Tokyo, Chicago Magazine, the Arlington Heights Daily Herald, The Saudi Gazette, the Arab News in Jeddah, and Aramco Magazine.

Hanania's Chicagoland columns are published in the Southwest News-Herald, the Des Plaines Valley News, the Regional News and the Palos Reporter newspapers.

He is President/CEO of Urban Strategies Group media and public affairs consulting which has clients in Illinois, Florida, Michigan and Washington D.C.

His personal website is www.TheMediaOasis.com. Email him at: [email protected]
Ray Hanania