Last night, Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel failed to secure a majority in the election, and will be forced into a runoff:
Rahm Emanuel, who was easily elected mayor of this city four years ago, was dealt a setback Tuesday. Though he came in first among five candidates, Mr. Emanuel failed to seal a second term by winning support from enough voters to avoid a riskier runoff election this spring.
It was a serious blow after a campaign in which Mr. Emanuel had a huge fund-raising edge over lesser-known opponents, not to mention an in-person endorsement last week from President Obama in his adopted hometown.
The outcome underscored Mr. Emanuel’s newfound vulnerability in a mostly Democratic city that had not had a mayoral runoff since it began holding nonpartisan elections 16 years ago. In 2011, Mr. Emanuel swept into office on a first balloting with more than 55 percent of the vote in his first run for mayor.
“This makes it an entirely different ballgame — a brand new election,” said Dick Simpson, a political scientist and former alderman who has contributed to political candidates, including Mr. Emanuel’s opponents. “It becomes a real battle and it sharpens the issues.”
Mr. Emanuel, who angered some here when his administration closed nearly 50 public schools, clashed with public schoolteachers and oversaw the city through flashes of gang violence, received 45.4 percent of the vote, with almost 99 percent of precincts reporting, not the 50 percent plus one needed to win outright. His closest competitor was Jesus Garcia, a county commissioner known as Chuy, who had important backing from the Chicago Teachers Union. He got 33.9 percent of the vote, giving him a place in a runoff against Mr. Emanuel on April 7. The rest of the votes were split among three other candidates.
I think that this is the first since the election laws in 1995 that a sitting Chicago mayor has been forced into a runoff.
Considering the fact that Rahm got about 55% in the first round in the last election, when he was running in an open seat, this is a fairly epic.
What it comes down to is the fact while the good people of Chicago expect a bit of corruption in the provision of public services, under the expectation that services will actually be delivered to those who need them.
Emanuel’s tenure as mayor has been marked by a devotion to the 1%, particularly Wall Street, makes Michael Bloomberg look like Che Guevera.
In Rahm’s Chicago though, the ordinary citizen has become little more than a profit machine for the fat cats:
Why did progressives–why do progressives–want to humble Emanuel? The answer’s been blaring from magazines like In These Times and Rolling Stone and the Nation for months. In the election-month cover story of In These Times, for example, progressive historian Rick Perlstein explained why the deal Emanuel cut with a company to remake the city’s transit cards never stopped hurting him.
The transit cards can double as debit cards, you see, promoted as a boon for Chicago’s un- and under-banked. But dig the customer fees hidden in the 1,000-page contract the city signed with Cubic: $1.50 every time customers withdraw cash from an ATM, $2.95 every time they add money to their online debit account with a personal credit card, $2 for every call with a service representative and an “account research fee” of $10 an hour for further inquiries, $2 for a paper copy of their account information, and, if you decide you’ve had enough, a $6 “balance refund fee.” This all makes mincemeat of the pro-privatization argument that “the marketplace” is more transparent than a government bureaucracy. The city might have been able to anticipate this before inking the deal had they paid attention to the fact that Money Network, the payment processing company partnering with Cubic, had received the lowest possible grade from the Better Business Bureau, and that another partner, MetaBank, was fined $5.2 million by federal regulators for a scheme to issue debit cards funded by tax refund loans at interest rates of up to 650 percent.
Mayor Emanuel is clearly cutting sweetheart deals that will encumber Chicago for years, if not decades, with the implicit promise that he will get highly remunerative do-nothing jobs in finance after he leaves office, much like he did after leaving the Clinton administration in the late 1990s.
Sh%$ like this is why “Rahmbo” has been forced into a runoff despite the fact that Barack Obama flew to Chicago to campaign for him.
I do not expect Mr. Garcia to win.
Emanuel has more money for his campaign than God, I expect that the former White House Chief of Staff to win handily, though I expect “Chuy” to do better than yesterday’s 33.9%.
As to the campaign, I expect wall-to-wall ads across the Chicago media, with a focus on driving a wedge between the Hispanic and Black communities through racist and nativist dog whistles.
In a multi-candidate campaign like the primary, negative ads tend to put voters off both the source and target of the ads. In a 2-candidate runoff, this is not an issue, and Rahm’s millions can pump out a lot of slime.
Case in point, a Republican mega-donor, and financier, Muneer Satter, has donated big time to the Emanuel campaign:
Chicago investor Muneer Satter has spent more than $1 million in the past three years helping Republicans win. He’s so focused on the party taking back the White House that he paid for a poll assessing the 2016 Republican field, the results of which convinced him to get behind former Florida Governor Jeb Bush.
But one Democrat has managed to capture Satter’s wallet: his hometown mayor, Rahm Emanuel, who is up for reelection Tuesday.
Satter doesn’t just scatter campaign checks to the wind, fellow Illinois Republican donor Ronald Gidwitz said in an interview. Rather, his support is both tactical and complete. “He wants to see the best person win and is putting his money where his desires are,” Gidwitz said.
Satter and his wife, Kristen Hertel, have put more than $352,000 into Emanuel’s mayoral campaigns and supportive political committees, according to Illinois State Board of Elections records. They’re among his top-flight donors, despite having spent heavily in 2012 trying to oust Emanuel’s former boss, President Barack Obama. The mayor was White House chief of staff until October 2010.
Although he has a robust history of Republican contributions, Satter began giving to Emanuel in 2007, when he was an Illinois congressman, and Hertel was one of the first contributors to his first campaign for mayor. It’s a reflection of donor pragmatism in Chicago, a city that last elected a Republican mayor in 1927.
“In Chicago, as everywhere, leadership is everything,” said Lisa Wagner, Satter’s spokeswoman. “Muneer looked at all of the candidates in the mayor’s race, and Rahm was the only candidate who could effectively tackle the problems of our city.”
We have also seen an orgy of no-bid awards to has donors:
In 2006, then-Congressman Rahm Emanuel attacked his Republican colleagues for oversight failures, focusing in particular on the awarding of a $7 billion no-bid contract to Halliburton, which had for a time been headed by Dick Cheney. Yet data examined by International Business Times show that, as Chicago mayor, Emanuel, a Democrat, has used an even less transparent no-bid process, where there is not even a contract, just a payout — in many cases to some of the mayor’s largest campaign contributors.
In all, firms that have received tens of millions of dollars’ worth of shadowy “direct voucher payments” (DVPs) from the Emanuel administration have given more than $775,000 worth of campaign contributions to the mayor’s political organizations. That’s a subset of the $1.2 million in total campaign contributions that Emanuel has received from employees of all vendors doing business with the city, according to municipal documents reviewed by IBTimes. Emanuel accepted those donations after signing an executive order purporting to ban campaign donations from city contractors.
Chicago’s DVP process is permitted thanks to loopholes in Illinois’ procurement law that allow municipal officials to circumvent the traditional contracting process. Unlike standard government contracts, DVP payouts do not require any type of public documentation. Emanuel appointees retain substantial discretionary authority to approve DVPs. The payments are not required to go to the lowest bidder; vendors receiving the payments do not have to list their qualifications and never need to document the services they provide to the city in return for the money. The DVPs appear to have been used for everything from phone service to interest payments to financial firms, but unlike the George W. Bush administration’s no-bid contracts, DVP payments do not even require a formal contract, so it is impossible to verify what the money purchased.
In 2010, Chicago’s inspector general issued a report that criticized the secrecy surrounding DVPs, alleged that some of the payments ran afoul of state law, and called for stronger contracting regulations. The report discourages the use of DVPs, but it does not appear to have prevented politically connected firms from benefiting from the process in a nontransparent way. The public can see which firms received the DVPs but still cannot ascertain what the citizens of Chicago received for the money — more than $38 million of which flowed to Emanuel’s campaign donors and their lobbying clients.
Last year, IBTimes reported that Emanuel has directed tax subsidies to some of his major donors, and that he received cash from executives of firms managing city pension funds. (That disclosure prompted city lawmakers to request a Securities and Exchange Commission probe.) Emanuel also awarded coveted city-owned lakefront property to the George Lucas museum, after Lucas’ wife and Disney executives donated nearly $50,000 to Emanuel’s campaign. The Chicago Tribune has published a series detailing how millions of dollars’ worth of city contracts have gone to the mayor’s top contributors.
Finally, it appears that Emanuel has had some serious negative coat tails, with liberal reformers out-performing in the elections as well:
Not only was Mayor Rahm Emanuel forced into a primary runoff for the first time in Chicago history, there was a strong showing by progressives across the board:
Emanuel’s weakness was felt all across the ballot. He’d created a super-PAC, Chicago Forward, to bail out 17 of his allies on the council and to beat progressive incumbents. Only seven of them won outright: Will Burns, Mike Zalweski, Danny Solis, Robert Maldonado, Margaret Laurino, Pat O’Connor, and Debra Silverstein. The rest were forced into runoffs, including Deb Mell, the sister-in-law of disgraced former Governor Rod Blagojevich. Meanwhile, Chicago Forward had lobbed mailers at two aldermen–Scott Waguespack and John Arena–who’d asked the SEC to investigate the legality of donations to Emanuel from the executives of companies managing the city’s pension funds. Arena narrowly missed a win and will head to a runoff; Waguespack won outright.
It was not all progressives wanted, but it was not what the super-PAC had wanted either. The progressive bloc was expected to expand to 12 of the council’s 50 seats.
“The good guys won Round One,” said Working Families Party national director Dan Cantor in a statement. “Forcing Mayor 1% into a run-off is a remarkable achievement. Along with the run-off, the progressive caucus on the Council is poised to make gains.”
Again, I don’t expect Rahm Emanuel to lose the runoff, but it has to be clear to his supporters, his patrons, and his various lackeys that he has been deeply damaged by his electoral performance.
As such, I cannot help but wonder if those who have hitched their star to his political career aren’t making some serious contingency plans.