What the numbers mean for Emanuel, Braun and Chico

February 25, 2011

There’s no disputing the numbers: Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel had an overwhelming victory in an election that – while not quite as big as had been anticipated – brought a higher percentage of registered voters to the polls than any other municipal campaign since 1995.

Emanuel won the heavily white, Jewish and gay lakefront by more than 60 percent of the vote, scoring nearly 75 percent in the 42nd, 43rd and 44th.

Rahm also won four of the ten Latino majority wards: the 26th, 30th, 31st, 33rd and 35th – all north side wards, each and every one far away from his good buddy Juan Rangel’s sphere of influence (in other words, though Rahm may be giving him a shout out, there’s no way Juan, based on the southwest side, had squat to do with those victories).

But most significantly – and perhaps most crucial to avoiding a run-off -- Emanuel won every single African-American majority ward in the city: the 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 15th, 16th, 17th, 18th, 20th, 21st, 24th, 28th, 29th, 34th and 37th.

And he won big -- often by breathtaking margins of 30 and even 40 points.

No question the President’s coattails were long in this case (again, in spite of Rahm’s shout out, I don’t buy that Jesse White’s late endorsement had much to do with this win). And there seems little doubt that, in spite of a pre-election editorial in The Chicago Defender that endorsed Carol Moseley Braun and claimed Emanuel “has shown no affinity for (Chicago’s) 1 million African-Americans,” the vast majority of the city’s black voters thought otherwise. Emanuel’s victory margins in each African-American majority ward evidence support – frankly, very enthusiastic support.

But in a contest with a “consensus” black candidate – with a campaign supported by some of the African-American community’s best known and best loved figures and financed by black millionaires -- this kind of turnout for Rahm Emanuel is also irrefutable testimony of just how out of touch the old black leadership may well be with its own grassroots community. It is also startling proof of the utter lack of an on-the-ground organization to get the vote out, which means the "consensus" group's endorsement was ultimately meaningless.

How badly did Braun, the “consensus” candidate, lose? Catastrophically.

She came in fourth overall in the city, behind both Gery Chico and Miguel del Valle, and only better than the other two African-American candidates, both mavericks who were never expected to get more a few votes. In her own 5th ward, Emanuel humiliated Braun 62 percent to 16.7 percent.

Carol didn’t win a single ward – not one – in all of Chicago. And in the black majority wards, that was her Rahm Emanuel was trouncing by 30 to 40 points over and over.

In the 18th ward, where African Americans make up nearly 68 percent of the population, Braun even came in third to Chico, 20.3 percent to 17.7 percent. Granted, the 18th ward has a maverick streak: Until Mayor Daley appointed Lola Lane to finish out Thomas Murphy’s term once he got bumped up to judge, Murphy had been the only white alderman from a black majority ward.

In fact, outside of the black majority wards, Braun was held to single digits. Only in the 27th, which is a black plurality ward, did she hit 10.5 percent of the vote.

And in four wards – the 14th, 38th, 41st, and 45th (all white majority except the 14th, which has a Hispanic majority), she actually scored less than one percent.

In spite of endorsing Braun days before election (in a twisted editorial that emphasized her resume way more than her achievements), The Defender’s editorial late on election night may have bared the staff’s real frustrations:

 “This election was lost over the last 22 years, because what constitutes Black leadership in Chicago seemed to be caught with its pants down when Daley decided he wasn’t going to run for re-election. Since Harold Washington died in 1987, a whole generation of able and qualified aspirants to City Hall have been co-opted, bought out, or chased away, and when leaders went looking for mayoral candidates, they found the cupboards largely bare. So we got Cong. Danny Davis, at 69, running for mayor, a year older than Daley, who was retiring. We got Braun, who had not been active in politics for nearly 15 years, stepping into the fray. We had William ‘Dock’ Walls running for this third different post in the last four years, and we had Patricia Van Pelt Watkins coming out of nowhere to seek the office of mayor in her first foray into politics. She obviously didn’t read the book about paying political dues … This was a watershed election for Chicago, but especially for Black Chicago. Not only could we not come up with a ‘consensus’ Black candidate (while the white community certainly did by sending Tom Dart and Lisa Madigan home to spend more time with family), we didn’t really support any Black candidate.”

Indeed, it might be time to make way, not for those who still have memories of Harold but for those for whom Harold fought for a better future long after he was gone.

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One other election note: Second place winner Gery Chico won ten wards, of which six were Latino majority wards. But the actual picture’s a little bit more complicated.

Who supported Chico? Well, if you look at the wards he won, Chico's Machine ties are glaring. His victories came in:

              * the 10th ward, Ed Vrdolyak’s old territory, where alderman and committeeman John Pope adheres to Machine tradition;

              * the 11th, run by John Daley, the most "old school" of the Daleys;

              * the 12th, coordinated by committeeman Tony Muñoz, the Machine ally who ousted progressive Jesus Garcia as state senator years ago;

              * Michael Madigan’s 13th; 

              * Ed Burke’s 14th;  

              * the 19th, where Matt O’Shea, the new alderman and heir to Machine stalwart Virginia Rugai, is also the committeeman;

              * the 23rd, which is run by Daley’s president pro tempore of the City Council, Michael Zalewski, also the old school ward committeeman;

              * and finally, the 25th, where Ald. Danny Solis is also the committeeman, and when he’s not Daley’s best Latino ally in the council, he’s allied with Cong. Luis Gutierrez, who put everything he had into getting Chico elected this time.

Chico also won the 41st, the city’s most Republican ward (and the most bipartisan, if we’re talking old style Dems), where he may have found his most natural constituency. It’s fair to say that most GOPers would find Rahm Emanuel's politics unthinkable, except for the utterly unfathomable and even more liberal and progressive politics of Carol Moseley Braun and Miguel del Valle.

Chico also won the 22nd, the city’s most Latino ward, where he challenged alderman and committeeman Rick Munoz, County Commissioner Jesus Garcia and state legislature aspirant Rudy Lozano, Jr., all del Valle supporters, on their home turf. This was a classic 22nd ward fight, where ethnicity doesn’t matter and the very last remnants of the Machine refuse to die while the progressives continue to flail. It’s also the ward which historically casts the fewest votes, as was the case again with 4,847.

And in spite of the tough words Chico had for Rahm Emanuel during the campaign, be assured that Chico will be back, and probably sooner rather than later. David Mosena, the former Daley chief of staff who made Chico his deputy and launched his career as Daley’s go-to guy, has just been named to Mayor-elect Emanuel’s transition team.