Quinn can’t beat Daley without black support


Illinois politics is, if nothing else, a redundancy entwined with predictability. The operative phrase is deja vu all over. The 2014 election promises more of the same old, same old.

As Chicago state Senator Kwame Raoul ponders a bid for governor, incumbent Democrat Pat Quinn is quaking, challenger Bill Daley is salivating, and the political mind boggles with analogies.

Will Raoul be Illinois’ next superstar, another Barack Obama, able to meld blacks and white liberals into a winning coalition in 2014 as Obama did in 2004? Or will he be another Roland Burris, a hapless and dreary loser who lost gubernatorial primaries in 1994, 1998 and 2002, a mayor’s bid in 1995, and a Senate primary in 1984? Or will he be Illinois’ next spoiler, drawing enough votes away from Quinn to ensure Daley’s nomination?

The state’s Democratic political landscape contains many fissures, with the major fault lines being race and geography. African Americans habitually vote for the black contender in statewide primaries or for the white candidate who is most liberal or least associated with the old Chicago Daley machine, the "Bridgeporters." Downstaters vote for anybody who resides outside Chicago or the least liberal Chicagoan. Secondary fault lines include ideology and gender.

The dynamics of a Quinn-Daley primary are markedly distinct from those of a Quinn-Daley-Raoul primary. The Democrats are divided into three segments, pro-Quinn, anti-Quinn and non-Quinn, each encompassing about a third of the electorate. In a two-way race without Raoul, the non-Quinn vote, largely blacks and Hispanics, would support the governor over Daley, and the pro-Quinn vote, mainly white liberals and gays, would hold firm. However, in a three-way race, the non-Quinns and even some pro-Quinns would gravitate to Raoul, 2014’s trendy flavor of the month.

Here’s some historical background:

First, fewer Illinoisans are voting in Democratic primaries or, for that matter, in any primaries. In 1984, during the Reagan-Mondale presidential race, turnout in the state’s primary was 1,565,446. Twenty years later, as Obama sought the U.S. Senate seat, turnout plunged to 1,242,996. Turnout in Cook County fell from 1,135,142 in 1984 to 764,163 in 2004 — almost 400,000 fewer Democrats. White liberals and minorities now comprise the bulk of those who do vote.

Second, race matters. In the 1984 primary, Burris got 360,182 votes (23.0 percent of the total cast) statewide and 276,583 votes in Cook County. Almost 90 percent of his non-Downstate backing came from black-majority wards and townships. White liberals flocked to Paul Simon, a Downstate congressman. The Daley organization candidate, Phil Rock, got 303,397 votes, to 556,737 for Simon. Obama’s principal opponent in 2004 was Dan Hynes, the son of 19th Ward machine boss, Daley ally and 1987 Harold Washington mayoral foe Tom Hynes. In an eight-candidate field, including Gery Chico, Blair Hull and Maria Pappas, Obama amassed 655,923 votes (52.7 percent of the total) statewide and 464,917 (64.4 percent) in Cook County. Obama got 200,000 more countywide (and, hence, statewide) votes than Burris in 1984, meaning a lot of whites supported him, while Hynes got about as many votes (294,717) in 2004 as Rock received (303,397) in 1984.

Democratic primary turnout in non-presidential year governor’s races has been 1,099,025 (1994), 950,307 (1998), 1,252,576 (2002), 944,381 (2006) and 951,726 (2010), for an average of 1,039,603. Burris ran in three primaries, getting 401,142 votes (36.5 percent of the total) in 1994, 290,393 (30.5 percent) in 1998 and 363,591 (29.1 percent) in 2002. That averages 351,708 votes, or about 32 percent per cycle. That’s the base Burris black vote, which Raoul will get just by being on the ballot. That, plus the breakout Obama vote of 200,000, is what he needs to win.

Third, geography doesn’t matter. The Democrats dominate Illinois government, and Chicagoans dominate the Democrats. The only Downstater of any prominence is Lieutenant Governor Sheila Simon, and she’s bailing out to run for comptroller. Her father, Paul Simon, and his Senate colleague, Alan Dixon, gave Downstate considerable clout until Carol Moseley Braun beat Dixon in 1992.

The Downstate primary vote is barely 25 percent of the total turnout. In the last four contested governor’s races, it averaged just 260,000.

Likewise, the Collar Counties don’t matter. In those four contested primaries, turnout averaged 167,000, less than 17 percent of the total turnout.

That means that Cook County averaged a turnout of 657,000 per primary, or 65 percent, with Chicago producing just over 300,000 of those voters and with black voters, with heavy concentrations in the south and west suburbs, casting about 300,000 votes.

Fourth, the "Daley connection" is unhelpful, and it can be poisonous in a two-candidate race. Rock, the Illinois Senate president who was backed by the Southwest Siders, including committeemen from the 11th, 13th, 19th and 23rd wards, failed to draw Downstate and got 19 percent of the vote in 1984, losing to Simon. Dan Hynes got an anemic 23.7 percent of the vote against Obama in 2004.

In governor’s races, the Daley machine backed Dawn Clark Netsch (1994), John Schmidt (1998), Paul Vallas (2002) and Dan Hynes (2010). All except Netsch lost, and she took 487,364 votes because she had broad ideological and gender appeal to Lakefronters and suburbanites. Even so, she still got only 44.3 percent of the vote. In 1998 Schmidt, the mayor’s former chief of staff, was squeezed between Burris and conservative Downstate U.S. Representative Glenn Poshard, getting 236,309 votes (24.8 percent of the total), while Poshard won with 37.6 percent of the vote.

In 2002 Vallas, Daley’s former Chicago Public Schools chief executive officer, ran almost 80,000 votes ahead of Burris, but his total of 431,726 votes fell short of Rod Blagojevich’s 457,197 votes (36.5 percent), and Blagojevich’s 25,469-vote victory margin came from Downstate. In 2010, in a one-on-one campaign between Quinn and Hynes, the governor triumphed by 8,372 votes, winning Cook County by 40,079 votes and carrying the 20 Chicago black wards by 88,227-62,968, a margin of 25,259 votes. Without question, the black vote was decisive for Quinn.

In those four contested races, the "Daley candidate’s" vote averaged 402,000, or about 39 percent. That’s enough to win a three-way race but not a two-candidate contest.

Why this black animus toward the Daleys or, more accurately, the "Bridgeporters"? It all relates back to the Rock Island railroad tracks and the 1919 Chicago race riots.

In 1920 African Americans were a minuscule portion of Chicago’s population, numbering 109,525 in a city of 2.7 million, just 4 percent. Blacks were isolated in the so-called "Black Belt," the South Side 2nd and 3rd wards, from 22nd Street to 55th Street between Wentworth Avenue and Cottage Grove Avenue. With "Freedom Trains" regularly arriving from the South, the city’s black population climbed to 272,751 by 1940 and to 519,437 by 1950. The "Black Belt" burst, Wentworth was breached as far west as the Rock Island tracks (which was the eastern boundary of Bridgeport and the 11th Ward), and huge numbers of blacks began moving to Lawndale on the West Side.

Bridgeport, then as now, stretched from the Chicago River to 55th Street, between the tracks and Damen Avenue. Bridgeport also was the city’s "Cradle of Mayors," with native sons Ed Kelly (1933 to 1947), Martin Kennelly (1947 to 1955) and Richard J. Daley (1955 to 1976) occupying City Hall . . . and later Mike Bilandic (1977 to 1979) and Richard M. Daley (1989 to 2011). In the early 1950s the white politicians’ solution to the "black problem" was summarized as follows: "Build ’em high, and dig it deep."

With federal funding, the Chicago Housing Authority launched a huge tenement-razing and high rise-building effort, creating 40,000 units between 1950 and 1956. In an area of 2 miles, from Pershing Road to 54th Street, between State Street and the Rock Island tracks, the so-called "slum castles in the air" materialized. The goal was to keep blacks out of Bridgeport and the adjacent white neighborhoods. Construction of the Dan Ryan Expressway in the 1950s, which cut north-south along the Rock Island, was another man-made barrier to ghetto expansion.

The era’s black leadership fully comprehended why Daley and his all-powerful political machine kept blacks in the projects. It was easier to control their votes, it kept them penned, and it made school desegregation unnecessary.

To this day, Bridgeport teems with white working-class ethnics — Irish, Poles, Lithuanians, Germans, Italians, Hispanics — and a growing professional class is buying condominiums along Halsted Street, but there are virtually no blacks. Bridgeport is as much a negative symbol to Chicago blacks as Selma is to Southern blacks.

Any politician associated with Bridgeport, including the "lace curtain" Irish who moved southwestward through Back of the Yards and Marquette Park in the 14th Ward and on to Morgan Park and Beverly in the 19th Ward, is tarnished.

African Americans will vote for a white candidate (like Quinn) over a "Bridgeporter," and when confronted with a choice between Daley and an inconsequential black candidate in the 2003 and 2007 mayoral races, many just won’t vote.

My prediction: The only way Quinn can win is go negative on Daley and unite the anti-Daley 60 percent, but pent-up anti-Quinn sentiment could boost Daley to a narrow win in a two-man race. In a Quinn-Daley-Raoul fight, Daley’s ceiling drops to 35 to 40 percent of the vote and Quinn’s liberal/minority base collapses. Raoul becomes the "fresh face," and Daley the "Bridgeporter." Expect a Raoul upset.

Send e-mail to russ@russstewart. com or visit his Web site at www. russstewart.com.

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