Amidst all of the clamor for Mayor Rahm Emanuel to resign in light of his refusal to release CPD dashcam video of a white veteran police officer shooting an unarmed Black teen 16 times, the question not being asked is what if the mayor does quit, then what? We know that should the mayor opt of completing his term – the most unlikely of any scenarios – Alderman Brendan Reilly of the 42nd Ward is in line to serve as interim mayor.
His council colleagues will then set a date for a special election to fulfill Mr. Emanuel’s unfinished term. Next we should expect a mad scramble of real contenders, also-rans, and perennials to start courting voters. There’s been no shortage of job-seekers for the city’s top post in the last two elections. In the foreseeable future, there is no reason for that scenario to change much. We should expect to see at least one major new mayoral candidate name in the scrum,
and that is president of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District and Public Building Commissioner (PBC) Mariyana Spyropoulos. She is a Democrat with strong ties to the business community and brings tremendous fundraising capabilities. Her PBC role provides her insights about the city’s future development that her opponents won’t have. As a millennial Caucasian, female, M.B.A., attorney, Ms. Spyropoulos will bring a background to the race not seen in decades. Currently, there isn’t much conversation about her potential candidacy, but she surely is among the credible to keep an eye on. A Rahm resignation would not give her enough time to complete her biggest hurdles – connecting with and being embraced by African-American voters, but should he remain another three years, that is plenty of time for her to accomplish that mission.
Should Emanuel refuse to abdicate the mayoral throne before 2019, it would hurt more than help potential successors. The chief reason is it would mean less time for fundraising and getting voters acquainted with them and their achievements.
Of course there are several other names we can expect to show up in the news as potential replacements for Mr. Emanuel. The one most often mentioned, and rightfully so, as potentially the next mayor is Sixth Ward Alderman Roderick T. Sawyer, who also is chair of the city council’s Black Caucus. Sawyer, currently in his second term, has demurred in the past when asked about seeking the mayor’s job. He routinely tells those looking for that answer that his priority is his South Side ward, but has never ruled out a bid for mayor. As the son of the late Mayor Eugene Sawyer, the younger Sawyer brings what is essentially lifelong involvement in politics and government.
He’s proven to be neither an ally or foe to Mr. Emanuel. His Achilles Heel may be he joined with 46 other council members who approved a $5 million payout to the mother of Laquan McDonald who was murdered by Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke in 2014. We should expect that to be a non-starter regardless of when the next mayoral election occurs.
None of us should be surprised if we see the name of Alderman Scott Waguespack as a potential candidate.
The 32nd Ward alderman leads the council’s Progressive Caucus. Since taking office in 2007, he has demonstrated a keen understanding of the city budget, and offered solid, cost-saving alternatives on several line items. Unfortunately, too many of his colleagues were committed to Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s program and Wauguespack’s alternatives got no traction.He has especially earned the respect of many of those in the Black Caucus of the council as he readily stands with them on a number of reform issues.
Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, the Cook County Commissioner who finished second to Mr. Emanuel in the 2011 race, should be viewed as an even more serious candidate should he choose to run again. Mr. Garcia’s campaign was often clunky and often unresponsive to claims from the Emanuel camp about Mr. Garcia’s abilities to take on the enormity of the monster known as the city budget. The Emanuel mantra of “Chuy has no plan” resonated with voters, although few asked for the specifics of Mr. Emanuel’s plan. The City of Chicago currently has a half-billion budget deficit. One should expect Mr. Garcia, who has been silent on the mayor’s shortcomings, will campaign with a new and more aggressive strategy.
Former Fourth Ward Alderman and current Cook County Board President, Toni Preckwinkle falls under the “will she or won’t she” category. Prior to the 2011 election, there were strong hopes and a consistent buzz about her seeking the mayor’s job. She instead opted to continue to focus on shoring up the county’s fiscal position.
Mrs. Preckwinkle, a former school teacher, has been critical of Mr. Emanuel’s handling of police-related shootings of unarmed civilians, and the mayor’s failed budget fixes.
State Sen. Kwame Raoul is one of the city’s more seasoned pols who is far from peaking undoubtedly will be courted to run for mayor.
Speculation ran rampant in the last two gubernatorial elections about Mr. Raoul as a candidate. He tested the waters in the 2014 race, only to come up short in the fundraising area. That was due to billionaire businessman Bruce Rauner and his rich buddies blasting fundraising caps with a record $65 million spent. Should Mr. Raoul opt into the mayoral race it is highly unlikely he or any of the others will be forced to deal with Rauner-esque dollars, or even the $30 million the incumbent mayor raised.
Virtually unknown in political circles in 2011, Amara Enyia emerged from that race as a household name. Armed with a couple of doctoral degrees, a deep understanding of municipal government policy, and ideas that may have been too big for voters to absorb, the 30-something Ms. Enyia was forced from the race when her campaign office was burglarized and fundraising came up short. Voters should expect this perennial learner to transform those previous shortcomings into a viable campaign.
Maybe next time
Every election, regardless of the office, brings out a handful of favorites from a few vocal voters. They are men and women who are known to be friendly, committed to their jobs, smart but just not been in a leadership position. That leads some to believe all these people need is a chance and they can shine as mayor; others discount their lack of administrative, legislative or policy experience. Two men who undoubtedly will be serious mayoral challengers in the future fit that bill.
City Treasurer Kurt Summers no doubt is a rising political star, but the Whitney Young Magnet School and Washington University graduate has minimal experience as a campaigner. Outside of those who closely follow government and politics, Mr. Summers’ name doesn’t resonate. His lack of campaign experience also would be a negative in a race before 2019.
Larry Rogers, Jr. attorney and Third District Board of Review Commissioner, is often spoken of as a viable mayoral candidate. Mr. Rogers has excelled as a personal injury attorney, and is viewed as a stellar commissioner. What he seems to lack is the experience of being involved in a grueling city-wide campaign. There is no doubt he can raise money with the best, but does he have the name recognition and “rock-em, sock-em” campaign style that is required to get to the mayor’s office remains the question.
There seems to always be a set of candidates who have the faith in themselves that they can convince voters they represent the change the electorate is seeking. Unfamiliarity with being a CEO, an inability to be a prolific fundraiser, or the lack of a strong command of the language doesn’t deter many of these also-rans from demonstrating democracy welcomes everyone on the ballot.
No one should be surprised if William “Dock” Walls begins stumping for the job, even though he said the 2011 election would be his last. In three bids for mayor, the small business owner has never garnered more than 10 percent of the vote. ‘Nuf said.
During every election cycle Frederick Collins, a veteran of the Chicago Police Department finds an office that he thinks needs him. Should he jump in the mayoral fray again, it will be Mr, Collins’ second run for the job. There is no reason to think he will fare any better than he did in his bids for U.S. House of Representatives or Cook County Sheriff. Collins doesn’t help his chances by being unable to decide if he is a Democrat or Republican-having run as one or the other in both partisan races.
To steal part of the title of a mid-20th Century Louis Jordan song “Is You Is or Is You Ain’t”defines Tio Hardiman’s fledgling political career. Mr. Hardiman left a career as one of the nation’s leading anti-violence strategists and found himself in a scrum to be the state’s governor in 2014 and emerged with 30 percent of the vote against a wounded incumbent. In the ensuing year, Mr. Hardiman has announced and withdrew for U.S. Senate, U.S. House of Representatives and Cook County Clerk of Courts races; although he is rumored as a write-in candidate for the latter.
Regardless of when or how Mayor Emanuel leaves office, there will be no shortage of competent, entertaining and baffling candidates looking to move into the fifth-floor digs of the mayor.