Chicago's next female mayor


Chicago’s first female mayor, Jane Byrne.

The City of Chicago hasn’t had a female mayor since Jane Byrne was elected in 1979–the first and only woman to run Chicago.

I was certain that when Mayor Richard M. Daley announced he wouldn’t
seek an unprecedented 7th term, certainly plenty of women would join
the fray of vying candidates. But, no. When I eye-balled the names
thrown out on Progress Illinois (updated 9/29/2010), a majority of them
were men. That’s surprising considering the city is 51 percent women,
according to the U.S. Census American Community Survey from 2006-2008.

I talked about this a bit today as a guest of the “Month in Review”
roundtable on WBEZ’s “848” program. After the show, I decided to do a
little analysis of my own from the great info on Progress Illinois’
website. I found that of all the possible candidates (basically the
folks circulating petitions, mulling, rumored and “in” for sure), men
outnumbered women by more than 5-to-1. Just six of the 38 possible
candidates are women.

Among those circulating petitions, two of the eight are women. But if
you look at just the 10 people who have officially said that they are
in, none are women.

The odds that the next mayor is a guy are pretty high. And if money is
an indicator (as I wrote about in 2007; “Less money, little power“),
odds aren’t good there for women. Women had nearly two times more money
on average than their male counterparts; $715,360.68 compared to the
$442,610.09 taken in among the 23 men who had at least a buck. This may
sound great, but by and large, Lisa Madigan’s $4.4 million accounted
for most of the women’s gains.


Without Madigan the women had negative
funds in their campaign coffers. In all, the women collected just $4.3
million compared to the $10.1 million among the men. Remember, that’s
everyone except people who have officially said they’re “out.” Among
the folks who are “in” the women have nothing because there are no
candidates. The 10 guys have about $1.4 million on hand.

If you want to see for yourself:



Of course, I’d be remiss to not mention race. Among the six possible
female candidates, there’s parity between black and white candidates.
An even split. But there are no female Latino or Asian candidates. On
our website, we still have Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez
as a possibility. But perhaps, she’s no longer interested. If not, then
we’re back at zero. That’s just unacceptable in a city where the
population of Latinos is 28 percent, according the 2006-2008 Census

I thought for sure that more women would have been considered in this
race for mayor–particularly women of color–since race and gender became
hot-button issues in the last presidential election. Was the nation
going to elect the first female president or the first minority? Other
nations had been doing that for years. Isabel Peron of Argentina was
the first woman president, elected in 1974.

Here in the U.S, for example, Susanna Medora Salter in 1887 was
elected the first woman mayor of an American town, in Argonia, Kansas.
In 1991, Sharon Pratt Dixon Kelly became the first black woman to serve
as mayor of a major U.S. city, in Washington, D.C.

Is now the time for Chicago? And if so, who?

When I hear public discussions about mayoral front-runners, the names
of women are often remiss. Why? In my one-on-one conversations with
people, the men are often talked about as being “good” candidates or
being able to weather this or that scandal. When I talk about the few
women mentioned the words “smart” and “integrity” keeps popping up. If
that’s the case, why aren’t they front-runners? I would imagine that
during this post-recession economic slump we’d need a few smart people
to manage the city.

So, why aren’t more women front-runners? Let’s start the discussion here.


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  • Yea, I did notice that.It is early though but I would like to see someone other than a current pol in the running.A real business person because some real tough decisions have to be made.A manager how will demand a full audit of city finances.Anita Alverez could be bit I think she fits where she's at for now.Maybe in the next election cycle.How about you Ms. Kelly? A fresh young face would do this city some good.I
    'm just tired of the same family names running for everything.

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