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Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Chicago Election 2015

Chicago's recent election is one of the most exciting I have ever participated in as a voter, and one of the most important I have ever participated in as a voter. Given the difficult divides in our city, as well as the "Strong-Mayor" system and Mayor Rahm Emanuel's controversial and divisive policy approach, I cannot recall an election with higher stakes in my personal voting life.

I believe that there are several fascinating aspects of the run-off that will determine whether challenger Jesus "Chuy" Garcia pulls together the neighborhoods to win, or whether Mayor Emanuel will escape to govern for a second term. Frankly, there are countless dynamics to analyze:

  1. Will 19 confirmed or apparent Aldermanic Run-Offs energize a lax voting body? 
  2. To what extent will Chicagoans turn out in early April? 
  3. How vocally will the Progressive Caucus support emerging aldermanic candidates that appear in run-offs? 
  4. Where will the votes from Bob Fioretti, Willie Wilson, and William Walls go? 
  5. Will the three defeated challengers endorse Commissioner Garcia? 
  6. Will Commissioner Garcia stick with his recent "Crime Candidate" advertisements, or will he find a new issue to attempt to win-over undecided or moderate voters? 
These types of points could go on-and-on. Frankly, there are multiple sides to these issues. For example, Commissioner Garcia could decide to focus on any number of issues that Mayor Emanuel opposes, and attack the race in that matter (given the widespread electorate support for an Elected School Board, Garcia could use this platform as a starting point). He could also challenge Emanuel on education, Red-Light Cameras, the use of TIF surplus, TIF reforms, etc. It remains to be seen whether Commissioner Garcia will benefit from pushing Mayor Emanuel on one specific issue, or whether he will try a multi-faceted approach. While progressives might like to see their challenger tackle Mayor Emanuel with myriad issues and approaches, Garcia could potentially benefit from sticking to one issue (like red light cameras or an elected school board) that appeals to voters across racial, ethnic, and neighborhood lines. If a candidate such as Fioretti, Wilson, or Walls endorses Garcia, Garcia could benefit from using one specific meeting point with those candidates. 

Voters have many motivations, so I decided to collect three charts, using and election data. In some places, the data appears to have conflicting reports, so I add "?" next to those numbers. These charts aim to collect a few key points of voter motivation:
  1. How was voter turnout in my ward?
  2. Will my ward have an Aldermanic Run-Off?
  3. How did Garcia and Emanuel fare in my ward?
  4. Which major challengers succeeded in my ward?
  5. Is there a progressive caucus member in my ward? 
  6. How many % points are Garcia and Emanuel fighting over?
Chart One: The Battlegrounds
There are arguably 18 wards that will feature solid battlegrounds: I selected these wards because:

  • They feature some of Commissioner Garcia's best performances. 
  • They feature some solid performances by other challengers. 
  • Most importantly, they feature relatively low turnout, even in this election
(18) BATTLEGROUND WARDS Garcia Emanuel Turnout Alderman Run-Off Remaining % Note
22 70.8 20.8 27.5 No 8.4 Progressive Caucus Alderman (Munoz)
12 67.1 25.5 27.4 No 7.4
35 57.3 33.5 28.4 No 9.2 Solid voting for Fioretti
25 56.4 33.1 30.4 No 10.5
26 53.9 34.4 26.8 No 11.7
15 52.9 29.8 24.5 YES 17.3 Solid voting for Wilson
14 52.7 37.3 33.1 No 11.0
31 51.3 40.5 27.1 YES 8.2 Potential Emanuel rally with Suarez push
30 49.6 39 22.6 No 11.4
33 49.6 39.5 35.5 YES 10.8 Meegan challenges with 35%
1 49.0 39.4 28.8 No 11.5
10 47.5 37.7 35.6 YES 14.8 Solid voting for Fioretti
36 45.2 39.2 28.2 YES 15.8
49 44.1 43.6 34.7 No 12.3
23 43.6 39.8 42.5 No 17.6 Heavy voting for Fioretti
40 42.3? 47.1? 33.8 No 10.6 Heavy voting for Fioretti?
32 41.6 47.2 27.8 No 11.3 Progressive Caucus Alderman (Waguespack)
19 36.1 41.7 51.5 No 22.2 Heavy voting for Fioretti

The Run-Offs in 10, 15, 31, and 33 could be particularly important, given (a) the support for other challengers, (b) the potential for progressive developments in the City Council, and (c) the need for improved voter turnout (specifically in 15 and 31).

One of the most difficult aspects that Mayor Emanuel will face is heading into wards where Commissioner Garcia performed well, and attempting to sway voters that did not hit the polls. It remains to be seen if those voters that stayed home were already Emanuel supporters ("Oh, I won't vote, there's no way he loses"), or if those voters will be encouraged by Garcia's performance ("Oh, he really is a serious candidate, I'll vote for him"). 

Chart Two: Wilson Wards
I think it's easy for a lot of people to joke about Willie Wilson, given some of the reported controversies during the election, and his relatively apolitical demeanor during speeches and debates. Frankly, I was fascinated when Wilson prayed for closing statements, or prayed during his concession speech, and generally appeared to place his political race in the wider context of religiosity and thankfulness. Many of us are cynical, or want to play hard politics, so a Candidate like Wilson may seem less-than-serious, but Wilson's performance in 18 wards was very serious.

I collected these wards, given that they are (a) wards in which (either) Garcia and (or) Emanuel did not perform particularly well, and (b) wards in which Wilson thrived.

(18) WILSON Garcia Emanuel Wilson Turnout Alderman Run-Off
24 23.4 36.4 30.3 26.7 YES
37 21.2 41.2 28.2 26.3 YES
17 24 40 26.6 28.4 No
16 26.1 39 26.6 22.3 Progressive Alderman Running (Foulkes)
28 22.2 39.8 25.9 22.9 No
34 20.7 45.3 24.9 32.4 No
21 22.3 42.2 24.5 33.4 YES
20 26.5 40.3 24.4 25.6 YES
9 22.1 43.2 24.0 32.1 No
6 23 42.5 23.5 30.7 Progressive Alderman (Sawyer)
8 24.1 43.3 22 35.5 No
29 25.1 42 21.9 30.3 YES
7 24.6 43.6 21.2 31.9 YES
27 21.7 48 18.9 26.5 No
18 32.8 38.7 16.6 38.2 YES
3 21.2 48.9 16.4 30.2 No
4 28.5 44.5 14.1 37.7 No
5 33.7 43.9 12.9 39.0 Progressive Alderman (Hairston)

These wards arguably have the most interesting combination of turnout issues / potential turnout increases, aldermanic runoffs, and, of course, endorsement potential for Wilson himself. Should Wilson choose to endorse one of the Mayoral Candidates, and the turnout stabilizes or improves, these wards will shape the results of the election.

Of course, there is the added bonus of watching Mayor Emanuel head into neighborhoods that his policies have not favored during his term. Will reconciliation be enough for the Mayor, or are residents and voters of these wards finished with the Mayor?

Chart Three: Emanuel Land
The biggest problem for Mayor Emanuel appears when one looks at 14 of his strongest wards: the Mayor (unsurprisingly) performed great along the lake, but those wards already featured some of the best voter turnout performances of the election. Granted, a handful of aldermanic run-offs remain in these wards, and given the relative affluence of some of these wards, one might argue that these wards are more likely to improve voter turnout than other areas of the city. However, some voters in these wards did support Fioretti and Wilson to some degree, which leads one to ask whether the voters that stayed home were progressives who did not feel motivated to vote (given Emanuel's strength along the lake); given Mayor Emanuel's performance, it's difficult to imagine that staunch supporters of the mayor stayed home. So, in the worst case scenario, even if Commissioner Garcia does not improve his performance in these wards, he could still potentially pick up votes from Fioretti or Wilson supporters (if those people return to the polls).

(14) Emanuel Country Garcia Emanuel Turnout Alderman Run-Off Note
42 16.7 73.2 27.3 No Moderate Fioretti support
43 18.4 71.9 33.3 No
2 23 64.9 30.7 YES Moderate Fioretti support
44 27.2 64.2 29.7 No Heavy voting for Fioretti
46 31.6 57.4 36 YES Equal Wilson and Fioretti
50 32.5 55.1 31.8 No
48 37.6 52.2 37.2 No Equal Fioretti and Wilson support
47 40.1 51.2 36.9 No Moderate Fioretti support
13 37.3 51.1 45 No Solid Fioretti voting
11 32.5 48.9 34.9 YES Heavy voting for Fioretti
39 37.4 48.2 38.1 No 
38 33.2? 48? 37.7 No Solid voting for Fioretti
45 35.1 47.9 41.8 YES Progressive Alderman Running (Arena)
41 31.1 47.7 41.5 YES

Basically, we have a real fight for Mayor in Chicago. One thing is certain: if you have any grievances with the City government, if you want the City government to reflect a specific political outlook, you have the chance to impact the government. Remember, the City of Chicago is ultimately OUR government. These politicians work for us, and if we believe that the city can improve, we need to vote as such.

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