The Weekly Political Roundup: February 14th – February 18th

February 18, 2011

Missed anything this week in Chicago politics? We have you covered with our weekly digest of the best game in town.

We’re in the final stretch to the municipal race of the century (thus far). So read up and get ready to vote on Tuesday, if you haven’t already. Federal officials will be watching to make sure nothing untoward goes down. Over 73,000 have voted already --Thursday was the last day to vote early. The intensity of the mayoral race could be one reason the early turnout was over double what it was in 2007. The Obamas say they’ve cast their absentee ballots, but they’re not saying for whom. Of course, President Obama’s been saying nice things about Rahm Emanuel, without formally endorsing him. On that note, Obama says his help isn’t necessary, so he’s staying out of it.

A couple of new—and conflicting—polls came out this week. First, one that found Carol Moseley Braun with 22.5 percent and in second place. The poll—notably paid for by Braun herself—contrasts other recent polls, including another this week from the Chicago Retail Merchants Association, which has Emanuel “surpassing the 50% mark” and Gery Chico in second place with 24%. It also puts Miguel Del Valle at 10 % and Braun at 6%. The low number for del Valle isn’t deterring the candidate, who’s out with a new TV ad saying it’s time for reform. Chico also has a new ad, hitting Emanuel for growing up “in suburban safety and privilege,” and calling Emanuel out for his tax plan.

Emanuel says the plan will increase city revenue while saving “working families” hundreds of dollars a year; Chico says it really amounts to higher taxes for those same working families. Earlier this week, the Chicago Tribune fact-checked both claims and determined both candidates are exaggerating. Another point of contention between the two—pension reform—raised the pique of some city workers who received a letter from Emanuel explaining his position on pensions. The workers want to know how he got their information to send the letter; the Emanuel camp says the letter was sent all over the city, not just to city workers. Braun called for a federal investigation into the matter.
Emanuel this week also reached out to his comedic foul-mouthed impersonator, @MayorEmanuel, offering a personal donation to charity in exchange for revealing his or her identity. The Twitter sensation didn’t bite and remains anonymous.

Emanuel is also hoping to lure Latino voters to his side—in that effort, his campaign is putting out robocalls recorded in Spanish that link Chico to an “anti-immigrant” tea party group that endorsed Chico. The Chico campaign calls it a “dirty trick” and says he’s rejected the endorsement. On the flip side, the Emanuel campaign says a pejorative made by a Chico supporter has “ugliness behind it”; a union leader called Emanuel a “Wall Street Judas.” Chico’s not denouncing the comment—his spokeswoman says the Judas reference only has to do with being a traitor, not being Jewish. Mayor Daley criticized Chico for standing behind the comment, and Chico responded with disappointment.  All this came after a failed joke on Sunday by Braun, in which she seemed to liken Emanuel to Hitler. She says that’s not what she meant. Emanuel says he takes her at her word. Meanwhile, some anonymous fliers attacking Emanuel were undoubtedly anti-Semitic; Emanuel shrugged them off.

Also this week, the University of Illinois at Chicago put out a report calling for Chicago’s next mayor to rid the city of corruption. Chico and Bill “Dock” Walls have officially signed on. When it comes to street crime, Emanuel says he’s down with Police Superintendent Jody Weis’ gang tactics, despite having previously said he’d replace Weis if elected. Emanuel also suggested he might replace the powerful Alderman Ed Burke as chairman of the City Council’s Finance Committee—that has the ink flowing over the potential of Council Wars Redux.

That little poke came within Monday’s candidate forum on WTTW, in which the other leading candidates also had their say on how the Council might change. You can watch the debate in full here. Thursday night was the last debate in the primary contest—the Tribune live-blogged it, and you can watch the whole thing from ABC7. If you’re hungry for more from the candidates, check out Eight Forty-Eight’s interviews from this week from
Chico, Walls, Emanuel, and Patricia Van Pelt-Watkins (they had del Valle and Braun on last week). Oh, and don’t forget 53rd ward alderman and mayoral candidate Ed Bus.

On the aldermanic front, the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform filed a state elections complaint against For a Better Chicago. The watchdog group says the PAC, which is supporting several aldermanic candidates, should have to reveal its donor list. The chairman of For a Better Chicago says that’s not true. If you’re looking for some good reads on individual aldermanic races, start with the Chicago Reader story on the 27th, 47th and 32nd wards.
The Sun-Times profiled a handful of candidates who are hoping to follow family members into the City Council. The Tribune has a piece on the 46th ward race--where 11 candidates are running to succeed outgoing alderman Helen Shiller. ABC7 has a brief story on the 18 candidates in the 24th ward. The Chicago News Cooperative wrote up the 15th ward. And Progress Illinois covered the issues in the race for the 3rd ward.

Also up for City Council consideration is a proposed Clean Power Ordinance, though it doesn’t seem to be going anywhere fast; frustration over that fact was evident in an unofficial hearing on the issue. The Civic Federation, meanwhile, said they would like future city leaders to consider privatizing all city services. In his way out, Mayor Daley hopes to tighten gun control for the city and beyond. And don’t expect him to fade into oblivion when he’s gone—he’s signed up with an agent to launch a new public speaking career. If he’s talking to Chicagoans, note that there are considerably fewer of them than there were ten years ago, according to new Census data, which also reveals a declining African-American population.

Another declining population is that of Cook County employees; the Circuit Court Clerk this week issued 170 layoffs. On Tuesday, county workers spoke out publicly against the ongoing cuts.

Governor Pat Quinn is proposing deep cuts in the budget he introduced this week for his State of the State address. Still, spending would increase by almost $2 billion. As the governor begins work on getting his budget passed, advocates for a ban on the death penalty are pushing hard to get him to sign a bill that passed 2 months ago. And in news of a former governor, federal prosecutors this week refuted Rod Blagojevich’s claims that any phone tap tapes were missing—they say if there’s a conversation that’s not there, it wasn’t recorded.

Meanwhile: House Speaker Mike Madigan, who recently went on the record saying he would consider pension changes for current state employees despite claims that it would be unconstitutional, said it’ll be up to the Illinois Supreme Court to decide that. Another cost-saving measure up for consideration in the General Assembly is a proposal to merge the offices of Comptroller and Treasurer—that passed out of Senate committee this week.

Okie-doke, that’s it for this week in review. Let me know if you think we missed anything, and have a great weekend.

Photo by Scott Olson (Getty Images)