Citylife: Who's running for mayor?

September 8, 2010

And now it's Chicago's version of the running of the bulls. With Mayor Richard M. Daley's decision not to run for another term, anyone and everyone who ever imagined his or her self sitting on the city's big shoulders is already out on the streets, elbowing, jabbing, leaping and dodging.

But keep this in mind: Anyone can talk.

With the election filing deadline of December 13, this means that any serious candidate has to collect 25,000 solid gold signatures to run -- probably more like 75,000 to 100,000 to cushion the many inevitable challenges.

And that alone takes money -- because with Chicago's tattered army of precinct workers and no heir apparent in sight -- it's every single candidate for his or herself.

Never mind the oodles of money needed to hire staffers, workers, pollsters, pay for advertising, dirty tricks, etc., etc., etc.

    (Photo by Dennis Johnson)

So if you look at the calendar, it's pretty clear that, no matter the dreams of a beautiful savior, our next mayor will most likely be picked from an array of our usual tarnished suspects.

Why? Because they need to already have or have access to money -- quick. In a recession, there's not much money to harvest in the first place, so the current scenario makes it almost impossible for a new name and face to rise.

This election, though short -- voting's February 22 -- will be fierce, nasty and unlike any other. And there will be two rounds: the free for all in February and then the run-off in April between the two top vote-getters.

But to play, you have to have access to enough shoe leather to get those signatures and enough money to get all the campaign weapons of mass destruction you need.

Who does that leave?

Let's start at the top: Rahm Emanuel. Rahm drops certificates of deposits as he walks, along with the occasional gold bricket. His campaign fund had more than $1 million before he even got up yesterday. He doesn't have as broad local support as the national media thinks but count him in.

Sheriff Tom Dart actually turned down entreaties to run for higher office because he'd always dreamed of being mayor. He's got looks, tons of money (about $1.5 million), and connections all over town. He's got plenty of time to dispatch his Republican rival for sheriff in the November election, pivot and announce for mayor. Everything will already be in place. He probably wouldn't have spent much for the sheriff's race but may do so now with a wink-wink towards city hall occupancy. And, like Rahm, he'll be a national favorite: He was already named by Time magazine as one of 2009's "most influential people" in the world for refusing to evict renters from foreclosure properties. 

Ald. Robert Fioretti has made more noise than anyone about running. He's also sprinted all over the city in the past few months to let folks see his face. Originally backed for his City Council job by Jesse Jackson, Jr., and representing a traditionally African-American ward, Fioretti -- a white lawyer -- can muster the troops and the money, though his campaign fund isn't much in comparison to his rivals'. He's a yes. (Jackson's out -- the specter of indictment or, minimally, embarrassment, during a new Blago trial will keep him on the sidelines -- were it not for that, he would be a formidable candidate.)

Ald. Edward Burke will likely run. He's got more than $3 million in his two campaign funds and at, 67, it's now or never. He'll get his signatures during lunch. And they'll be perfect.

Cook County Assessor James Houlihan, also 67, is, like Burke, in a now or never position. He's made no secret of his ambitions and has about $1 million at his disposal. African-American candidates? Cook County Clerk Dorothy Brown has already run and lost, and she's got a fraction of what these big boys have in the bank, but she seems persistent. Ditto Congressman Danny Davis, who should know better. State Senator and Rev. James Meeks will announce a candidacy, but it'll go nowhere. There will be a smattering of announcements from others but no other black official has the name recognition or the money to even get out of the gate.

Among Latinos, there are only two with a shot: Congressman Luis Gutierrez has the money, the name recognition, the organization and the tattered reputation. City Clerk Miguel del Valle has the creds, probably half the name recognition, about a quarter the money. One of those two will run, and a few others will screech and whine to no effect.

Others? Forest Claypool has name and money, but not as much as the others. Ditto Rep. Mike Quigley, though not as much of either as Claypool. Same with David Hoffman. Ald. Tom Tunney might sign up, make some headlines about being a gay candidate, then skulk away when he sees what it's going to take.

The nos? As I said, Jackson, but also his wife, Sandi, alderman of the 7th ward (she just announced her campaign today for re-election to the City Council); Valerie Jarrett (especially if Rahm runs); Lisa Madigan (she wants to be governor); State's Attorney Anita Alvarez; any Daley relative; Ald. Scott Waguespack (he might announce but won't get very far) and Republican Ron Gidwitz.

What do you think?