Fall election result will show who can deliver
by RUSS STEWART
The Nov. 4 election, for Democratic politicians in Chicago, will be a "UPS moment." Which committeemen among the 50 Chicago wards will deliver, and will their delivery be decisive and intimidating?
With Chicago politicians already heavily focused on the Feb. 24, 2015, municipal election, and those with statewide ambitions intensely pondering the state landscape for 2016 and 2018, the 2014 vote will, to use that old expression, "separate the men from the boys."
Many decisions will be made, or unmade, based on which candidates run best and which committeemen produce the most votes.
First, the governor’s race is of critical importance to Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan and his daughter, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan. A tactical determination of great import looms: As Lisa Madigan aspires to run for governor in 2018, is it more advantageous for her prospects to have Republican Bruce Rauner or a Democrat Pat Quinn as governor for the next 4 years?
If Rauner wins, Lisa Madigan’s 2018 path is cleared, while if Quinn wins, he (and the General Assembly’s Democratic super majority) may be so reviled that no Democrat can be elected governor in 2018. If Rauner wins, Springfield gridlock will ensue, with vetoes, overrides and constant posturing and bickering. Of course, if Madigan remains the speaker through 2018, his unpopularity will reach new lows, and it will rub off on his daughter. By then, Madigan will have been speaker for 34 of the previous 36 years, and he’ll surely stick around until 2022 to make sure that his daughter gets the legislative support she needs.
Two scenarios emerge:
In a Rauner governorship, the Springfield Democrats could revert to being part of, as Howard Dean once put it, the "Democratic wing of the Democratic Party." Quinn is a member of that wing: a tax-and-spend populist liberal. So, to a lesser extent, is Senate President John Cullerton, who, with a 40-19 super majority, will dominate that chamber through 2022, and will habitually support tax and fee hikes. Ironically, it is Mike Madigan who has been the most conservative — or, more aptly, least liberal — among Springfield leaders. His House majority is 71-47, just one vote above the 60 percent super majority, which enables him to override vetoes and pass bills in overtime sessions. During the 2013-14 session, Madigan resisted calls for tax hikes and even proposed reducing the corporate income tax rate.
Madigan’s motivation was entirely selfish. If he instructed some of his suburban or Downstate members to support higher taxes, they would lose and Madigan’s job security would be jeopardized. In the Illinois House, everything is about keeping Madigan’s power. That is the agenda.
Under a Rauner governorship, legislative Democrats, with Madigan’s encouragement, could engage in a gluttony of spending, safe in the knowledge that Rauner would veto them, thereby enraging whatever special interest benefited, and, of course, that special interest would donate copiously to the Democrats, and when faced with a government shutdown or a tax hike, Rauner would capitulate. The legislature, with Republican members backing their governor, would sign on, and the tax hike would be bipartisan, thereby insulating Madigan’s members.
Said one local Democratic politician: "Madigan really wants Rauner to win so that the ugly work will be done by 2018 and Lisa can take over."
In another Quinn governorship, there will be more gridlock, but the causative agent will be Madigan. Quinn has said he will not run in 2018. In order to elect Lisa Madigan in 2018, the speaker will have to ensure that the "Madigan wing" of the Democratic Party in Illinois is clearly differentiated from the "Democratic wing" of the Democratic Party. That means that Madigan must be the anti-tax obstructionist — as he was during 2013-14. In short, he must establish separation between Quinn-Cullerton and the Madigan faction.
In politics, "shaving" is a timeless technique. That means a ward or township boss instructs his minions to instruct his controlled vote not to vote for somebody. Polls show the Quinn-Rauner race close. A Real Clear Politics polling average had Rauner leading by 0.3 percent. The latest We Ask America poll had Rauner up 44-41 percent, although an early-September Chicago Tribune poll had Quinn up 48-37 percent. The candidates will spend about $60 million on the race, which will be decided by 25,000 to 50,000 votes.
In 2010 Quinn trounced Republican Bill Brady in Chicago by 520,413-120,110, getting 75.5 percent of the vote. Quinn won Madigan’s 13th Ward 8,487-2,481 (with 68.5 percent of the vote), and adjacent Southwest Side wards also went heavily for Quinn. Quinn won Bill Lipinski’s 23rd Ward (around Midway Airport) 6,615-4,970 (with 57.9 percent of the vote), Tom Hynes’ 19th Ward 14,933-7,516 (with 62.1 percent), and the Daleys’ Bridgeport 11th Ward 7,415-2,927 (with 64.3 percent). Any "shavings" here would be obvious.
However, as Madigan is the Democratic Party state chairman and has a coterie of Downstate legislators closely allied with the Downstate Democratic county chairmen, shaving is more easily accomplished. Quinn carried Cook County in 2010 by 500,553 votes; he lost the Collar Counties to Brady by 114,583 votes and the remaining 95 Downstate counties by 354,146 votes, for an overall win by 31,834 votes.
Quinn’s consistent history of pandering to Chicago-area gays, minorities and liberals has totally estranged him from Downstate voters, who cast roughly 25 percent of the statewide vote. Even though Rauner is a North Shore suburbanite, he still figures to carry Downstate. If the speaker "shaves" Quinn by not spending party money Downstate, that might enable Rauner to win the area by close to 450,000 votes — and thus the election.
Second, the performance of Lisa Madigan will be closely monitored. A summer poll had her beating Mike Schrimpf, her unknown Republican opponent, by just a few percentage points. Having won in 2006 by a margin of 1,677,210 votes (with 72.5 percent of the vote) and in 2010 by 1,225,296 votes (with 64.7 percent), any major 2014 diminution in her vote will be noteworthy. The goal is that she runs 400,000 to 500,000 votes ahead of Quinn, and the speaker will be closely monitoring the productivity of various committeemen and county chairmen.
By 2018 Lisa Madigan will have been attorney general for 16 years and will be a still-youthful 51 years old, but she is no longer a fresh face, and her ascension to the governorship is no longer inevitable.
Third, inside the campaign of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, concerns are surfacing that he may not win a second term outright on Feb. 24, but may be forced into an April runoff. In 2011, facing five opponents, Emanuel got 325,965 votes (55.3 percent of the total) in a turnout of 589,828; only one foe, Gery Chico, was serious. It is clear that for 2015, having antagonized the public sector unions and police with his pension "reforms" and blacks with his school closings, Emanuel has major problems.
To be sure, he’ll have close to $20 million to spend, but his message is dubious. Efficient but unlikable, Emanuel has no signature achievement to justify 4 more years. It is probable that 10 to 15 percent of the 2011 Emanuel voters won’t back him or won’t vote in 2015. That winnows his base vote to 275,000 to 290,000, which means that if turnout exceeds 580,000 — approximately the 2011 level — he is in serious trouble.
However, there is a path to victory: depress turnout and spread gobs of money in the wards, especially the black-majority wards, to get people not to vote. In the outlying predominantly white wards on the Northwest Side and the Southwest Side, Emanuel also will dump oodles of cash. On the Lakefront, mailers will fall like rain. A low vote is the goal. By campaign’s end, Emanuel will have spent $75 for every vote he gets.
Emanuel’s opponents are Bob Fioretti, a white alderman from the black-majority South Side 2nd Ward, former Board of Review commissioner Bob Shaw, who is black, and likely Chicago Teachers Union president Karen Lewis, who also is black. In 2011 Emanuel won 59 percent of the vote in the city’s 20 predominantly black wards. He must replicate that feat in 2015.
That’s why Nov. 4 is a template for Feb. 24. It’s a "UPS Moment." Those committeemen who deliver for Quinn, Lisa Madigan and Secretary of State Jesse White will be sitting pretty. They get the Emanuel’s largesse.
Those who fumble? Emanuel will still have time to recruit and field aldermanic candidates in those wards, fund them lavishly, and have them run a joint mayoral/aldermanic campaign.
The mayor’s worst nightmare is a runoff, which means that no candidate got more than 50 percent of the vote on Feb. 24. That would be abject humiliation. "King Rahm" would have been humbled. The expectation is that there will be an Emanuel-Lewis runoff, as Emanuel’s support in the black community has collapsed and Lewis, Fioretti and Shaw will accumulate more than 50 percent of the vote. Black committeemen will take his money and run.
However, given a "Least Worst" choice between Emanuel and Lewis, will white and Hispanic voters really opt for a rabble rouser like Lewis? I think not. Emanuel will limp to a second term, with many calamities yet to come.
Send e-mail to russ@russstewart. com or visit his Web site at www. russstewart.com.