Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s decision not to run for re-election next year has the dozens of aldermen and challengers fighting for seats on the City Council he has largely dominated these past seven-plus years facing a new political reality: With “Darth Vader” leaving, how will his successor hold things together?
All 50 seats are on the ballot in the February election and some old-school Emanuel loyalists on the council will face young candidates who will hit them for their fealty to the fifth floor and recent historic tax increases. So there was always likely to be a fair amount of aldermanic turnover.
Now, pro-Emanuel aldermen who have been on the fence about running need to figure out if they even want to try to come back to a body where a new mayor could look to new allies and different factions will try to assert themselves. Plus, aldermen are set to take a slew of unpopular votes in coming years.
Southwest Side Ald. George Cardenas, 12th, said veteran aldermen are weighing whether they can win and whether they want to wade into the chaos of a new council.
“That’s the question looming for a lot of folks: Where are we going to be with the jockeying for leadership positions, the policies in the council going forward,” said Cardenas, who’s running for re-election in a ward that includes McKinley Park and parts of Brighton Park, Little Village and Back of the Yards.
Ald. Walter Burnett Jr. — an Emanuel ally who chairs the Committee on Pedestrian and Traffic Safety and who’s running for re-election in the 27th Ward that stretches from the Near North Side to the West Side — said he was “crushed” by Emanuel’s decision not to run.
Aldermen who Emanuel tapped for committee chairmanships will worry they could lose those positions and the jobs that come with them under a new mayor, Burnett said.
“Those of us who have committees and folks working for us have to be concerned who’s the next person,” Burnett said. “Are they going to allow us to keep our committees? Are they gonna honor the seniority? All those kinds of things.”
And Far South Side Ald. Anthony Beale, 9th, said some aldermen may find life in the council and in their communities tougher without Emanuel backing them in exchange for their votes. “A lot of times it’s easier to ride someone’s coattails,” Beale said.
Retiring Ald. Ricardo Munoz, 22nd, who’s considering his own mayoral run, said Emanuel’s decision could hurt incumbents aligned with the mayor in the February election.
“They don’t have the resources and they don’t have the coattails,” said Munoz, a progressive who sometimes clashes with Emanuel.
But longtime Far North Side Ald. Joe Moore, 49th, said the mayor leaving could make it easier to win for aldermen allied with him by taking “steam out of some of the insurgency campaigns.”
“To the extent people are focused on the mayor and on citywide things, his removal from the scene I think saps some of the energy away from people who are really focused on attacking him and attacking those who supported his agenda,” Moore said. “Darth Vader is now gone and it’s a lot less easy to get exercised about someone who’s leaving.”
Despite his lame-duck status, Emanuel should have little trouble pushing through his 2019 budget and most other big ordinances he backs, given the council’s acquiescence to nearly all his major initiatives.
But, with the mayor on his way out, Cardenas said aldermen will be flexing their independence a bit more in coming months when considering their votes as they try to look out for themselves.
“In terms of these big decisions, I think there’s going to be a pause, with folks saying ‘How is this going to affect my end?’ ” he said.
While the election year budget should be an easy one without a raft of hikes, the next four years promise to be ugly ones in the City Council chambers.
Ballooning public pension obligations are almost certain to force another round of massive tax and fee increases such as the ones Emanuel got aldermen to pass in his earlier budgets.
The main candidates who have declared they are running for mayor so far include former Chicago police Superintendent Garry McCarthy, former Chicago Public Schools CEO Paul Vallas, former Police Board President Lori Lightfoot, Cook County Circuit Court Clerk Dorothy Brown, millionaire businessman Willie Wilson, Chicago principals association President Troy LaRaviere, activist Ja’Mal Green, tech entrepreneur Neal Sales-Griffin, Southwest Side attorney Jerry Joyce, policy consultant Amara Enyia, attorney John Kozlar and DePaul student Matthew Roney.
Since Emanuel’s departure from the race last week, several high-profile politicians have weighed a bid, including Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, state Comptroller Susana Mendoza, former U.S. Commerce Secretary Bill Daley, 2011 mayoral candidate Gery Chico and U.S. Reps. Luis Gutierrez and Mike Quigley.
Burnett said some aldermen had hardly evaluated the 12 announced mayoral candidates, thinking they didn’t have a chance against Emanuel. While higher profile candidates are certain to get into the race, Burnett said that changed with the mayor’s announcement.
“Now I think it’s gonna make folks really look at them and see who can bring something to the table,” Burnett said. “The city’s in a challenging position with all these pension funds, the debt, who can keep the city going for the future.”
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September 11, 2018 at 05:30AM