As the old adage goes: “There’s no politics like Chicago politics”

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 Mayoral campaign treks to a squeaking halt today while falling short of two key ingredients: Voters’ Excitement and Enthusiasm


                       Perhaps a run-off election can fire up the voters


By Juanita Bratcher


I’m still convinced that “there’s no politics like Chicago politics.”

That’s an old adage that echoes in my mind every time there’s a political campaign or election going on in Chicago; this after covering Chicago politics for almost 35 years.

That old adage, “There’s no politics like Chicago politics” has been making the rounds in conversations in Chicago for years, not only locally but in many other areas as well. No doubt, the expression has an underlying life of its own. Sometimes you laugh it off inasmuch as you feel that there’s some validity to it, and at the same time taking it somewhat lightly. Even now there are those who occasionally tie the Obama Administration to Chicago style politics (whatever that is) inasmuch as President Barack Obama and several of his top administrative staff hail from Chicago.

As a News Reporter/Journalist, I have written numerous articles pertaining to politics in Chicago. And I’ve had many engaging conversations with others about Chicago politics. But this mayoral race that’s now coming to a squeaking halt had political fanfare different from any other mayoral campaign that I’ve covered during my Journalism career. And it has done one heckuva good job of refreshing and joggling my memory about Chicago Style politics.

  • First off, there were about 20 contenders in the mayoral race that eventually dwindled to six. Remember, the current Mayor Richard M. Daley has reigned supreme for 22 years. Maybe Daley was hanging on to that old adage:”You have to know when to hold ‘em and know when to fold ‘em”.
  • Then there was the residency issue with Rahm Emanuel, President Barack Obama’s former Chief-Of-Staff, which started out with a public hearing, then on to the Chicago Board of Elections to be acted upon, and afterwards made its way to the Illinois Appellate Court and ending up in the Illinois Supreme Court. It was a 3-1 decision in Emanuel’s favor. All found him eligible to remain on the ballot with the exception of the Appellate Court and that after some ballots had already been distributed without Emanuel’s name on them. Of course that was corrected after the last ruling by the court.
  • Two African-American candidates – U.S. Rep. Danny K. Davis and State Senator James Meeks, both of whom had declared they would be in the race for the long haul eventually dropped out and threw their support behind Carol Moseley Braun, former U.S. Senator and former Ambassador to New Zealand, in an effort sought by African-American leaders to have a black consensus candidate. However, two lesser known African-American candidates – William “Dock” Walls and Patricia Van Pelt- Watkins – remained in the race. So much for a Black consensus candidate.
  • Before U.S. Rep. Davis dropped out of the race he urged former President Bill Clinton to stay out of Chicago politics when he learned that Clinton would be coming to Chicago to endorse Emanuel. That didn’t stop Clinton from coming in to make his endorsement.
  • And although President Obama didn’t make a formal endorsement of his former chief of staff, Emanuel had a slick ad with portions of Obama’s send-off speech to him when leaving the Obama Administration and returning to Chicago. Even U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush at a Rainbow PUSH Coalition forum took swipes at mayoral hopeful Rahm Emanuel, accusing him of allegedly trying to buy the February 22nd mayoral election with his “misleading and untrue media ads,” according to an article written by veteran Journalist and PCC Network Talk Show Host Chinta Strausberg. Reportedly, Rush said the ads were designed to ‘confuse” the black and brown electorate.
  • When candidate Van Pelt-Watkins questioned Braun in regards to her absence from public life, Braun’s answer to Van Pelt-Watkins’s inquiry was that Van Pelt-Watkins had been “strung out on crack”, the reason why she had to wonder about where she had been since leaving public office. While Van Pelt-Watkins admitted she had a drug problem years ago, she denied using crack. Braun later apologized.
  • However, somewhere in the final stretch of the campaign things got a wee bit off-course when a union official was accused of making anti-Semitic remarks in the campaign, and when some candidates took pot shots at Emanuel, perhaps because polls showed him as the front runner, far ahead of his five opponents. Chico came in second in the polls. 

I’ve written several articles about polls and the polling process in my Journalism career. I’ve never had that much faith in the political polling process. In my most recent commentary, “Voters Will Get the Last Word on November 2nd; Not the Pollsters”, I made note of that – that I had never been one that fully believed in the results of political polls.


In that commentary, I stated: “…I am apprehensive about the overall poll data I have read from various sources. However, I do believe that the data from these polls can sometimes have a resounding effect on public opinion.

 “Pollsters survey a small group of people (who knows who – party affiliation, background, and race) and use that data as a determining factor as to how thousands or millions of people – depending on whether it is a local election or a national election – will vote at the polls on Election Day.”


I covered the 1983 mayoral campaign. I was assigned to the campaign trail of Harold Washington, the only African-American in the race. About two weeks before the election polls had Washington running a distant third, behind two opponents – the incumbent Mayor Jane Byrne and then State’s Attorney Richard M. Daley now mayor of Chicago. But Washington won handily in a race that showed him in third place.


According to U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush (D-IL), in an article written by Journalist Chinta Strausberg and posted on CopyLine Magazine’s Web Site, 43% (a raw figure of 601,675) of registered voters in the City of Chicago are African-Americans, 40 percent Whites, and 18 percent Hispanics.


But today (February 22, 2011), void of any major political theatre, Chicago voters who didn’t participate in Early Voting will flock to the polls to elect a mayor in the Primary Election.


There are six contenders in today’s election sparring for the coveted post after a 22-year-reign by Mayor Richard M. Daley. Those candidates, all Democrats, include three African Americans – Carol Moseley Braun, a former U.S. Senator and former Ambassador to New Zealand; William “Dock” Walls, a former top aide to the late Mayor Harold Washington; and Dr. Patricia Van Pelt-Watkins, activist; two Hispanics, Gery Chico, served in Daley’s administration as school board and park board president and chairman of the City Colleges board; City Clerk Miguel Del Valle; and Rahm Emanuel, President Barack Obama’s former Chief-Of-Staff.


Early on, U.S. Rep. Danny K. Davis, State Senator James Meeks and State Senator Rickey Hendon pulled out of the race. After dropping out of the race, Davis and Meeks appeared at a press conference and threw their support behind Braun. Yet the desire of some black leaders for a consensus Black candidate went up in smoke, falling by the wayside long before it even got off the ground.


Davis undoubtedly was a strong contender for the post. His exit should have set the stage for lesser-known African American candidates to drop their bid for mayor since both had appeared before a forum for the purpose of rallying behind one African-American consensus candidate.


After collecting thousands of signatures to get on the ballot and winning first position on the ballot, Davis left the mayoral race. Walls has run unsuccessfully for political offices before. Two of the basic criterions for any candidate is name recognition with a good track record whether in politics, community activists or from the corporate structure. And indeed, one vote does make a difference. So whatever few votes garnered by lesser known candidates can certainly take away from those who have a better chance at winning.


But where is that excitement on the part of voters? Where are those engaging fiery debates that usually take place between opposing candidates? Where are the huge amount of ads that make their way across our television screens preaching to voters as to why they should vote for them and not their opponents?


Rahm Emanuel’s ads were steady running on television and in newspaper print, but very few if any from other candidates, besides Chico’s. Emanuel had about $14 million in his coffers and had the upper-hand in airing ads. And he wrapped-up endorsements from major media, including the Chicago Sun-Times, the Chicago Tribune and Crain’s Chicago Business.


However, voters will always get the final word in any election. And although Emanuel is leading in every poll, it’s never over until the Fat Lady sings.


I must admit that I like the “fire in the belly” politicians, those whose rhetoric are high pitched and dramatic with a profound message of surety and certainty; those whose messages ring out to voters with a little bit of fire and pizzazz in their agendas.


But the bottom line is that there was an obvious lack of enthusiasm on the part of Chicago voters in this election. Maybe voters will show more enthusiasm in the next mayoral campaign if the Primary Election leads to a run-off election.


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