Field of potential candidates for mayor explodes after Rahm’s surprise exit

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Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan is out.

But Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, Illinois Comptroller Susana Mendoza and Grosvenor Capital Management CEO Michael Sacks may be in. So might Cook County Clerk David Orr and U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez.

In consideration, that is, as potential mayoral candidates as the dust began to settle on Wednesday — a day after Mayor Rahm Emanuel set off a political earthquake with his surprise decision not to seek a third term.

Related: Lisa Madigan won’t run for mayor

While those figures either confirmed they were thinking about a run or didn’t deny the possibility, they are among some 40 names being bandied about as potential candidates now that Emanuel and his huge campaign warchest are out of the 2019 race.

Already, there are a dozen people who have announced they are running or who are gathering signatures to get on the ballot. But most of them have little name identification and would have to wear a billboard around the city to be recognized. They could have difficulty mustering resources for a run.

What’s driving the decisions for those looking to officially jump in to the race?

Money and family are at the top. So is watching to see which powerful players are really invested in running.

Madigan — perhaps one of the most recognizable names that had been in the mix — on Wednesday ruled out a bid.

“I am a lifelong resident of Chicago. I care deeply for the city,” she said in a statement. “There are a lot of challenges facing Chicago, and I plan to continue helping as resident and not as mayor.”

For the African-American community, there’s talk of banding behind a single candidate, similar to the swell of support Mayor Harold Washington received in 1983. There are also discussions about trying to get former President Barack Obama’s confidant and adviser, Valerie Jarrett, to run — although it’s unclear whether she’s interested in taking the plunge.

With Emanuel out, Preckwinkle is seriously considering a bid and weighing the pros and cons. A Cook County source said that Preckwinkle has made calls to precinct captains.

Preckwinkle has also called mayoral candidate Lori Lightfoot, the former Police Board president, whom Preckwinkle would have supported in a race against Emanuel, the source said.

All eyes were on Mendoza on Wednesday at a City Club of Chicago luncheon where she was asked repeatedly about a potential bid. Mendoza said she’s focusing on get re-elected as comptroller in November. Any inkling she might run for mayor could give her Republican challenger Darlene Senger a boost.

“I don’t even want to talk about the mayor’s race, frankly, until after November,” Mendoza said.

Mendoza, however, didn’t directly deny that she wouldn’t run.

After holding the post for about a week in 1987, Orr said Wednesday that he is eyeing whether he wants another chance — and a longer stint — in the mayor’s office.

Though he was set to retire in a couple of months, Orr said “given the political situation, I’m exploring a change of plans … from gleeful retirement to a return to the mayor’s office.”

More than three decades ago, Orr served as interim mayor after Mayor Harold Washington died on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving of 1987.  Then 49th Ward alderman, Orr had been vice mayor, so under law he held the mayoral post until Eugene Sawyer was chosen acting mayor at a tumultuous City Council meeting on Dec. 2, 1987.

Retiring Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., is also considering a City Hall bid and re-evaluating his plans to move to Puerto Rico.

“I will think about it,” Gutierrez told the Sun-Times on Wednesday.

“I’m not going to open up an exploratory committee. I am not going to open up a campaign. I am simply going to continue to talk. And I think I owe it to the Chicagoans that are calling and I am having conversations with,” Gutierrez said.

He added: “I haven’t made any decision.”

Gutierrez has considered a mayoral run multiple times and has always decided to stay in Congress. This is his last term. If Gutierrez jumped in, he would be a top-tier contender.  In June, the Sun-Times reported that Gutierrez was planning to move to Puerto Rico next year, where he has family and a second home.

Though his term ends this January, he will be sticking around for his top “priority”: helping his daughter Jessica in her bid to unseat Ald. Ariel Reboyas (30th).

The election for mayor and City Council is Feb. 26. Runoffs are held April 2 between the top two vote getters if no candidate gets a majority.

Several current aldermen are mulling bids. Even former Ald. Robert Fioretti (2nd), who finished fourth in the 2015 mayoral race with less than 7 percent of the vote, is making noises about running again.

“Yes, I’m looking at it,” confirmed Fioretti, who earlier this year was clobbered by Toni Preckwinkle in the Democratic primary for Cook County Board President.

Emanuel, meanwhile, on Wednesday told WGN Radio’s Steve Cochran that he didn’t believe any of the official contenders would ultimately win the post.

“No,” Emanuel said when asked whether any of the 12 declared candidates could win.

“I don’t think so. And I think, here’s the thing. The public knows that this is a very big job, and the mayor cannot be a one-trick pony. You can’t just speak on one issue. You gotta do economic development. You gotta do education policy. You gotta be able to get money out of Springfield and Washington,” Emanuel said. “You’ve gotta have an ability to actually invest in our neighborhoods, transportation, libraries, schools and park system.”

He also acknowledged the list of candidates “is not done. It’s gonna shake out for about a month,” Emanuel said. “And then the voters can make a smart decision about who can fill that office.”

Meanwhile, a We Ask America poll conducted on Tuesday, which collected 1,128 responses by calling both landlines and cellphones, has former Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy with support from 16.8 percent of those polled, followed by businessman Willie Wilson with 15.1 percent and former Chicago Public Schools CEO Paul Vallas with 10.1 percent. Lightfoot had 9.6 percent.

The poll asked respondents to choose from a list that included some — but not all — of the declared candidates, as well as some of the other big names that could jump in.

Of those potential candidates: Jarrett scored highest, at 6.6 percent; Preckwinkle had 4.6 percent; and Mendoza came in with 1.4 percent. Others on the list include former Obama chief of staff Bill Daley, 1.8 percent; Chuy Garcia, 3.9 percent; Jerry Joyce, 3.2 percent and Ricardo Munoz, 1.4 percent.

The poll’s margin of error was plus or minus 3 percentage points.

Contributing: Mark Brown

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September 5, 2018 at 10:28PM

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