Voters will decide between two remaining candidates for Chicago mayor in less than one month.
Just 33 percent of all voters last week supported one of the top two candidates - former federal prosecutor Lori Lightfoot or Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle.
That means Lightfoot and Preckwinkle must win over the 66 percent of voters who picked someone else. One way to do that is to pick up endorsements from the dozen unsuccessful candidates.
None of the former candidates for mayor would say just yet who they’ll support in a runoff, and there’s a chance some won’t endorse at all.
Third place finisher Bill Daley has not yet decided if he’ll endorse, according to his campaign spokesman. Fourth place finisher Willie Wilson plans to make an announcement Friday afternoon. Susana Mendoza, who came in fifth, could not be reached.
Why does it matter if or who the losing candidates endorse?
Endorsements from former candidates can come with goodies like volunteers, donors and other resources. But they could carry baggage in an election like this one, when voters seem focused on changing how things are done at City Hall.
The 12 losing candidates attracted different blocks of voters who Lightfoot and Preckwinkle now need to reach in order to win on April 2. Daley, who has a family name voters either love or hate, fundraised the most money and drew a lot of support from the business community. Wilson won most of the majority black wards. And in majority Latino wards, Mendoza and Gery Chico picked up the most support.
Even though the former mayoral hopefuls are tight-lipped right now, there were clues throughout the campaign about who they might endorse. During a forum on WTTW and WBEZ the week before the election, Mendoza said she might support Lori Lightfoot. Wilson joked he would change his name and run again. And Daley said he would wait and see. However, at a January forum on the Northwest Side, Daley picked Lightfoot as his hypothetical running mate.
“I’ve worked with her. I know her. I know what she stands for and I believe in her,” Daley said at that forum.
Amara Enyia spoke to WBEZ this week about making the decision, though she did not say who she might back.
“There’s so much weight behind the decision and for me,” she said. “I have to feel OK about where I’m directing my supporters to go, and I don’t take that lightly.”
Enyia finished sixth and had support from young activists pushing for things police reform and elected school boards, as well as big names like Chance the Rapper and Kanye West.
She also got endorsed by Cook County Circuit Court Clerk Dorothy Brown, who consistently pulls in votes from black communities on the South and West sides. Brown filed to run for mayor, but got booted from the ballot and threw her support behind Enyia.
“I still very much have this army of people that are looking to hold whomever is on the fifth floor accountable and we’ll be watching very closely the moves they make,” Enyia said.
In a forum on WTTW and WBEZ, Enyia said she wouldn’t support someone who entered the race after Mayor Rahm Emanuel decided he wasn’t running again. That would seem to rule out Preckwinkle.
But this week, Enyia talked about the importance of a candidate’s track record on progressive issues.
“If you are progressive, that should be reflected in your track record, not just what’s constructed during a campaign season,” she said.
That might indicate she’s leaning toward Preckwinkle, who spent nearly three decades in government pushing for things like affordable housing and criminal justice reform.
Both Lightfoot and Preckwinkle’s campaigns confirmed that the candidates had reached out to most of the other mayoral hopefuls. But neither would give details about whose endorsements they wanted or did not want.
“I don’t think I have a ranking or can’t comment which ones she wants more,” said Lightfoot campaign manager Manuel Perez.
Perez said Lightfoot won’t compromise who she is or her values or positions to get support from other candidates.
“We’ve had an incredible amount of support from all corners of the city,” he said. “So the strategy of getting former mayoral candidates on board is not the prime focus right now.”
Preckwinkle also downplayed endorsements from former mayoral candidates at a press conference announcing an endorsement from Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White.
“I’ve made a number of calls to former candidates,” she said. “But the truth is I think it’s really important that I get out and talk to the people of the city of Chicago.”
That includes the more than 367,000 voters who picked one of the 12 losing candidates.
Becky Vevea is a political reporter for WBEZ. Follow her @beckyvevea.