"Boss" Preckwinkle versus Maverick Lightfoot

Somehow I get the feeling that somewhere in the Holy Sepulcher Cemetery in Alsip the body of the late Mayor Richard J. Daley is spinning around like the proverbial top.  In yesterday's mayoral election, two African-American women emerged as finalists for the single most powerful position in Illinois politics.  For a man whose relationship with the African-American community was tumultuous at best, this outcome would have totally blown his mind.  Needless to say, so were a great many other people's  minds, especially among Chicago's political pundit class, your friendly neighborhood blogger included among them.

Now I must admit that I don't follow Chicago politics all that closely.  It's not that I don't care about the city.  I was born and raised on the city's South Side.  But my interest in the political machinations of the city has waned over the years .  My political perspectives have expanded, taking on a more state-wide and national point of view.  When you get right down to it, Chicago's importance as a political power center has also waned over the years.  Chicago's mayor is no long a national king maker.  Not only that, the office of Chicago mayor has pretty much turned into a dead-end job.  It certainly isn't a stepping stone to higher office.  You don't go from Chicago mayor to Illinois governor or United States senator.  Its power and prestige has ebbed considerably and so has my interest in the position.

And yet, for all its trial and troubles, you can't just ignore Chicago.  It's still an economic, financial, architectural, political, musical, media, and yes White Sox fans, sports center of power and influence.  So a wise person would do well NOT to inadvertently place Chicago in some darkened corner and just let it sit there and vegetate.  And the beating heart of Chicago is still the fifth floor of City Hall.  That's what has made this contest for Chicago's mayor so compelling.

In many ways this year's contest reminds me of the race between Alderman Bill Singer of the 43rd Ward and the late Mayor Richard J. Daley in 1975.  It was a match between Change Agent Singer and Establishment Incumbent Daley.  Richard J. Daley looked impregnable.  Mayor.  Party chairman.  Presidential king maker.  Singer, on the other hand, was the embodiment of the snot-nosed newcomer.  New to the city.  New to politics.  And yet he wanted to run things.  HIS way.  The outcome was entirely predictable.  Daley won going away and in the end Singer disappeared into oblivion, like so many of Daley's political opponents.  But Singer's campaign pushed Boss Daley, made him work for every vote he got.  There were a lot of free garbage cans given away on the Northwest and Southwest sides, just like there were a lot of twenty dollar bills dispensed on Skid Row.  Yes, Daley won and stayed in office until the day he died, but I think he and a great many in the Chicago Machine could see the handwriting on the wall.  For one thing, Daley never did pick a logical successor, content to let the city sink into chaos when he was gone.  In the end, Harold Washington took on the mantle of anti-Machine leadership and managed to piece together an uneasy truce between Chicago's black community and its Latino neighbors.  Which brings me back to the Preckwinkle/Lightfoot contest.  Once again we have the outsider taking on the Political Establishment, not unlike 1975.

The odds seem to favor Boss Preckwinkle.  She controls the city's political apparatus.  She has the unions under her thumb or perhaps that's vice versa.  She's sitting on a tremendous political bankroll which can buy enough television time to define Lori Lightfoot in the minds of the many undecided voters.  And yet, for all those advantages I still think Lightfoot has a chance.  The fact is that every voting bloc in the city is angry and frustrated.  The city doesn't work the way it used to.  So the question is whether Lori Lightfoot can tap into all that political angst and pull out enough votes to pull off the upset.  I think she can.  It won't be easy.  Toni Preckwinkle, for all her faults, is a seasoned political operator with a gut instinct for an opponent's weaknesses.

It all comes down to the power of new ideas versus the impact of years of experience.  Lightfoot sure does talk a good fight.  But political fights in Chicago aren't won with mere words.  It takes a lot of money, even more guts and a tremendous ability to organize the precincts on Election Day.  That's where Preckwinkle has it all over Lori Lightfoot.  But there is such a high level of anger and frustration with the status quo.  Property taxes are way too high.  City services are at an all time low.  Lightfoot is adept at making promises but can she come up with the funds to pay for those promises without increasing an already onerous tax burden on Chicago's rapidly declining middle class?  Preckwinkle is an expert at finding ways to pay for the short list of promises that she's been willing to make, but all of them involve raising punitive taxation even higher than it already is.  Who will win?  At the moment I think it looks like Preckwinkle but Lori Lightfoot has a way of making gossamer promises appear both concrete and attainable.  That could be a combination that even Boss Preckwinkle can't beat!

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  • The big surprise, at least to the pundits, and I assume the Tribune Editorial Board, is that the Bill Daley-Ken Griffin axis didn't work. There were reasons why, such as only union support from the Plumbers, while the other unions raised "dark money" against him, no appeal to Blacks and Latinos, and thanking his brother in the room. I don't believe that Emanuel screwed up the mess King Richard II left him. As Paul Vallas pointed out in his speech, Roseland has been going down hill for the past 40 years.

    On the other hand, we have the big surprise that the Sun-Times endorsed the winner of this round.

    I don't know about Preckwinkle fighting the machine when she first ran for aldercreature, but she certainly is the machine now. Kissed Barrios's rear while he was still around, and then took his party job when he was ousted from office.

    One thing I'm fairly sure about is that some at least one time commenters on chicagonow are taking a big dump that the next mayor will be a Black Lesbian. Also some aldercreatures, too. I'm surprised that one aldercreature, Joe Moore lost so decisively, even though he was supposedly the paragon of progressivism, but besides being dumb enough to try to defend himself on a chicagonow comment board, it was reported that David Orr abandoned him.

    But some things don't change. The result on the southwest side could have been predicted by all the yard signs that House Speaker Mike Madigan and Aldercreature Marty Quinn say to clean up after your dog.

  • One question about the new 49th ward alderman is will she count as a black alderman/black ward when the black caucus will have to give up 1 or more ward seats due to population loss?

  • In reply to urbanleftbehind:

    I'm sure anyone can belong to any caucus that will take her. Given that there weren't even Democrats or Republicans in yesterday's election, nobody ran on the Black Caucus ticket. I infer from your comment that you think there are Blacks only on the south and west sides, while there are certainly plenty of them in Rogers Park, especially in the Juneway area north of Howard.

  • In reply to jack:

    I've known that the 49th has had a plurality if not majority black population since its 1991 incarnation...I guess I'm looking at it from the POV of black alderman in those more "traditional" areas who are likely short several 000 in population come 2020 and the start bellyaching about maintaining the # of seats set aside. Would they consider the 49th to be not somehow representative...what if say Gary Matthews Jr. came back to Chicago (Whitney Young alum) and ousted Tom Tunney? Somewhat of a lifeline could come their way if the Census can ask for citizenship which might dent the chances of Ray Lopez (15th), Susan Garza (10th) and some of the wards bordering Emma Mitts remaining intact.

  • In reply to urbanleftbehind:

    I still don't figure out from where you are coming. The issue is not whether some Black, as opposed to the former Irish, alderman can join the Black Caucus. The issue to which you are referring may have already occurred in the 2010 census--due to population shifts, the 2nd Ward, which used to be on the south side, now is on the north, and most of the election maps show that most wards are severely gerrymandered. However, there basically is no way to gerrymander a ward at the edge of the city, which leaves the 10th, 49th, and 50th wards safe. I suppose that one can wonder why Woodlawn is in the 20th Ward while Hyde Park and South Shore is in the 5th, but it seems like the 20th Ward aldercreature should be more concerned about avoiding federal prison than the 20th Ward being moved to the north side.

    But whether Hadden joins the Black Caucus or teams up with Tunney to form and LGBTQTTT+- caucus is irrelevant. What might be relevant is that Hadden ran on not being a rubber stamp for the mayor, but presumably her candidate is in the runoff.

    And, as far as Garza, it's Sadlowski Garza , and she comes from a long-time Steelworkers Union family. The Mexicans came to South Chicago and Pilsen 3 or 4 generations ago, so the citizenship question doesn't affect them.

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