The Weekly Political Roundup: February 21st – February 25th

February 25, 2011

This week, it’s pretty straightforward, and you probably don’t need us to tell you: the big story came early (then, repeated often) with Rahm Emanuel’s mayoral victory Tuesday. He won with 55% of the vote, avoiding a runoff; the Chicago News Cooperative has a breakdown of how he did ward-by-ward. Despite being the first mayoral race in 22 years without an incumbent running (and official predictions that over half the city’s eligible voters would come out), turnout was only 42% overall.

The next day, Emanuel thanked voters at the 95th Red Line station before holding a press conference to outline some of his priorities. He says he’s not looking for a rubber-stamp City Council. But if he can get a majority of the next council in line with his agenda, big cuts are likely to come.

As part of the effort to encourage a friendly City Council, Emanuel says he’ll use his resources to help out certain candidates in runoff races. There are 14 aldermanic runoffs set for April 5—and some candidates such as 24th Ward incumbent Sharon Dixon have already said they’d love the assistance.

Other wards with runoffs include the 20th, where Che “Rhymefest” Smith is up against incumbent Willie Cochran, and the 50th, where longtime Ald. Bernie Stone is facing a challenge from Debra Silverstein.

Regardless of the outcomes in those races, it’s clear that change is coming to the council. The most notable indication may have been in the 47th ward, where 30-year-old Ameya Pawar pulled off a surprise upset against a hand-picked successor of longtime Ald. Gene Shulter; Pawar will become the city’s first Asian-American alderman. In another first, Illinois State Rep. Susana Mendoza is the first woman elected to the post of City Clerk.

In midst of all the post-election analysis, Cook County Board President (and former Alderman) Toni Preckwinkle joined Eight Forty-Eight to talk about the cuts coming to county government. The board is considering her 2011 budget today; this morning they voted to repeal the last half of the county’s recent sales tax increase.

The big news this week in state matters is Democratic state Sen. Rickey Hendon’s announcement that he’s resigning. He refused to answer the Chicago Tribune’s questions about whether or not his decision to quit had anything to do with a Federal probe of state grants he sponsored.

And speaking of the Feds, prosecutors this week moved to drop three charges against former Gov. Rod Blagojevich in an effort to simplify their case against him. Also this week, current Gov. Pat Quinn reduced budget cuts to the Department of Human Services from $208 million to $100 million.

In a bit of national politics that hit home, Sen. Dick Durbin and U.S. Reps. Dan Lipinski and Bobby Rush are railing against (pun intended) Republican efforts to cut funding for the Englewood Flyover project. It’s part of an effort to reduce rail congestion in Chicago.
 

Photo credit: Getty/John Gress