Chicago Voters Head To Polls To Replace Mayor Daley

February 22, 2011

Cheryl Corley

For the first time in more than two decades, voters in Chicago go to the polls Tuesday to elect a mayor who is not named Richard Daley. Last year, Daley announced he would not seek a record seventh term.

Former White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel is one of the candidates hoping to replace Daley. Although Emanuel leads in both polls and fundraising, the other candidates predict there will be no be no clear-cut winner and a runoff is likely.

At the end of the day, here's what all the candidates running for mayor of Chicago want to do: get 50 percent plus one more vote. That's what it will take to claim outright victory.

During the last full day of campaigning on Monday, the candidates crisscrossed the city.

Emanuel started at a familiar place — one of the city's elevated train stations in the L system.

"It's either 109 or 110 L stops since we started," Emanuel says.

While the train rumbled overhead, Emanuel shook hands, posed for pictures and continued to talk about changes he says are needed to get the city's dismal economy in shape. The latest poll shows him with 49 percent of the support of likely voters though he's cautiously avoids making predictions:

"That's their decision on the election," Emanuel says. "My goal is to make sure that they know I've been honest about what the challenges are, honest about what the policy choices are."

Emanuel won a court decision in a battle trying to knock him off the ballot based on his residency. He's raised millions of dollars, dominating the air waves with commercials. One features President Barack Obama praising Emanuel.

"If Obama back him, I'm a back him," says Leatrice Jarvis, who was at the L stop.

But Emanuel wasn't the only candidate wooing commuters. Traveling from stop to stop on the L, former School Board Chief Gery Chico had a message, "Throw all your polls away."

And in a city where machine politics and get-out-the-vote efforts are the stuff of legend, Chico, who is a distant second in the polls, says his organization is ready to go.

"We're hoping to have a couple of thousand people working on the streets in the precincts — getting their voters out. We've already done a bit of work on phone banking," Chico says.

A former chief of staff to Mayor Daley, Chico calls himself a guy from Chicago's neighborhoods.

Political analyst and Chicago Sun Times columnist Laura Washington says the candidates scrambling to fight for another day have put a dent in the expectation that Emanuel will run away with the election.

"No one's been really able to lay a glove on him in any meaningful way," Washington says.

But that doesn't mean they don't continue to try.

Carol Moseley Braun made history when she became the first black female to win election to the U.S. Senate. Her chanting supporters hope that on this date, the same day that Harold Washington won the Democratic mayoral primary 28 years ago, Braun will again make history.

She took aim at millionaires Emanuel and Chico, saying she had never used her office for personal gain.

"Tweedledee and Tweedledum, right? Both of them using the public trust to enrich themselves personally," Braun charged.

Braun, who was selected as a consensus black candidate hasn't raised much money.

Neither has the fourth major candidate City Clerk Miguel Del Valle. He refused corporate and large donations. When asked during an event at his campaign office if he thought this race for mayor would go beyond Tuesday?

"Yes, I think so, absolutely," he responded.

Del Valle says debates have increased his viability.

There are two lesser known candidates running for mayor as well. There are six candidates in all — making that 50 percent plus one threshold a little harder to reach. Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.