White vote was key to Emanuel’s re-election
by RUSS STEWART
"Mr. Diversity" he’s not. The "Bleach Man" would be more appropriate. Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s underwhelming victory in the April 7 runoff was due to his support from white voters.
It was a $30 million "Laundromat election," with lots of scrubbing, lots of dirt removal, lots of whitening and lots of fabric softener to make Emanuel soft and fluffy and, of course, lots of Drano to eradicate and flush Chuy Garcia’s credibility down the drain. Emanuel won because he made Garcia more odious than him. The mayor did what was necessary to win.
The final tally was 329,701-257,101, with Emanuel getting 56.2 percent of the vote in a turnout of 586,602. Emanuel won 35 of 50 wards. Garcia won all 13 Hispanic-majority wards, two white-majority wards (the Southwest Side 23rd Ward, where Bill Lipinski is the Democratic committeeman, and the Rogers Park 49th Ward, where Joe Moore is the alderman) and not a single black-majority ward.
Against four opponents (including two black candidates) in the Feb. 24 municipal election, Emanuel got 218,217 votes (45.6 percent of the total cast) in a turnout of 478,204. Emanuel won a plurality in 26 wards and a majority in nine wards. In 2011, against three black candidates and two Hispanic candidates, Emanuel got 326,331 votes (55.3 percent of the total), avoiding a runoff. He won a majority in 36 wards and a plurality in four wards.
So after 4 years as mayor, Emanuel’s vote plunged by 108,114, but the combined anti-Emanuel vote stayed almost the same, 264,026 in 2011 and 259,987 on Feb. 24. Clearly, more than 100,000 Chicagoans, almost all white voters, expressed their dissatisfaction with Emanuel by not voting in the municipal election. However, they "came home" on April 7. Turnout was up by 108,598 over Feb. 24, and Emanuel’s vote was up by 111,484. Can you believe that? Virtually every non-Feb. 24 voter who voted on April 7 voted for Emanuel or, arguably, against Garcia.
In fact, Emanuel’s 2015 runoff vote of 329,701 is almost identical to his total of 326,331 in 2011. In other words, the mayor’s base of support is static. It hasn’t grown, nor has it diminished, at least not against his desultory 2015 field of foes, but he has hit the proverbial glass ceiling. His support has nowhere to go but down.
In analyzing the April 7 results, certain myths can be shattered.
First, the mayor did not assemble a bi-racial coalition. Emanuel won because white voters in white-majority wards voted heavily for him. Of Emanuel’s 329,701 votes, 165,676 emanated from the city’s 19 white-majority wards. That’s 50.2 percent of his total vote.
In the six Lakefront wards (49th, 48th, 46th, 44th, 43rd, 42nd) extending from Rogers Park to Rush Street, most of which have a sizable Jewish and gay vote, with a predominately upscale electorate, Emanuel trounced Garcia 55,643-23,503 (with 70.3 percent of the vote).
There was no liberal "guilt" to be found. Garcia ran as the "progressive" candidate, and on the "progressive" Lakefront, where virtually no Republicans can be found, voters opted overwhelmingly for the white liberal Jewish mayor over the Hispanic liberal county commissioner.
That, of course, wasn’t racist. It was a wise choice. Emanuel got 36,147 votes in those wards on Feb. 24. The runoff uptick was 19,496 votes. Emanuel got 60,064 votes in those wards in 2011.
In the three west Lakefront wards (50th, 47th, 32nd), encompassing such liberal, upscale areas as Wicker Park and Ravenswood plus multi-ethnic but still largely Jewish West Rogers Park, Emanuel won 24,006-14,643 (with 62.1 percent of the vote). Emanuel got 14,928 votes in those wards in the municipal election. The runoff uptick was 9,078 votes. The wards’ aldermen — Debra Silverstein (50th), Ameya Pawar (47th) and Scott Waguespack (32nd) — all claim to be "independent," but only Waguespack has been a consistent anti-Emanuel vote. Emanuel got 28,040 votes in those wards in 2011.
In the five Far Northwest Side wards (45th, 41st, 40th, 39th, 38th), a working class area with huge numbers of city workers including cops and firefighters, Emanuel won 42,953-29,319 (with 59.4 percent of the vote. Despite a major anti-Emanuel effort by the public sector and teachers unions, Garcia was a tough sell. They ripped the mayor as an anti-union ogre who would slash pensions. Emanuel inundated the area with direct-mail pieces claiming that Garcia would raise property taxes. Emanuel got 28,937 votes in those wards in the municipal election. The runoff uptick was 14,016 votes. Emanuel got 36,213 votes on the Northwest Side in 2011.
In the five South Loop and Southwest Side wards (2nd, 11th, 13th, 19th, 23rd), including the gentrified areas south and west of the Loop plus Bridgeport and extending south to Beverly and Midway Airport, it ain’t what it used to be. The current ward bosses — John Daley (11th), Mike Madigan (13th), Tom Hynes (19th) and Bill Lipinski (23rd) — can’t deliver votes like they used to do. However, Daley, a county commissioner and the brother and son of former mayors, managed to get his nephew Patrick Daley Thompson elected 11th Ward alderman and aide Brian Hopkins elected 2nd Ward alderman.
The Hispanic vote is growing, but the residual political machines, while sputtering, still operate. Emanuel won 43,074-28,811 (with 59.9 percent of the vote. Daley’s 11th Ward went 7,634-4,805 (61.4 percent) for the mayor, Madigan’s 13th Ward 7,844-6,263 (55.6 percent), Hynes’ 19th Ward 11,921-8,165 (59.3 percent) and Lipinski’s 23rd Ward 6,373-4,874 (56.7 percent) for Garcia. Lipinski’s career is approaching the end. Emanuel got 28,741 votes in those wards in the municipal election. The runoff uptick was 14,333 votes.
Emanuel got 34,194 votes on the Southwest Side in 2011.
Second, the myth that black voters won’t vote for a Hispanic candidate was shown not to be true — to a degree. As demonstrated on April 7, if there’s no black candidate on the ballot, many don’t vote, but among those who do, a Hispanic candidate is not an unpalatable alternative, at least in contrast to a white candidate who is not perceived as friendly and indulgent.
In 2012 Barack Obama got 441,462 votes in the 18 black-majority wards. Although Emanuel was Obama’s White House chief of staff and the president endorsed Emanuel for re-election, Emanuel’s numbers were anemic compared to Obama’s. The 2015 municipal turnout in those wards was 195,373, 269,197 less than in 2012. Emanuel received 86,011 votes (44.0 percent of the total), to 47,774 for Garcia and with 61,618 votes scattered. In the runoff, turnout rose to 204,958, and Emanuel topped Garcia 106,511-98,447 (with 51.9 percent of the vote). Emanuel’s vote increased by 20,500 from the municipal election, and Garcia’s increased by 50,673, more than doubling
Voter registration in the black wards is 612,608. Of that number, only 204,958, barely a third, voted on April 7, and Emanuel got 106,511 votes — a dismal 17.3 percent of the total voter pool.
Third, the so-called "Sleeping Giant" — Chicago’s Hispanic voters — is still snoring. Hispanics comprise roughly 24 percent of the city’s population, but only about 310,000 of them are registered to vote. In the 13 Hispanic-majority wards (1st, 10th, 12th, 14th, 15th, 22nd, 25th, 26th, 30th, 31st, 33rd, 35th, 36th), Garcia beat Emanuel 69,297-41,146 (with 62.8 percent of the vote) in a turnout of just 111,542. Only 35.5 percent of registered voters in those wards voted.
Despite the fact that a Hispanic candidate was on the ballot, Hispanic turnout failed to surge. Garcia lost to Emanuel by 72,600 votes. Garcia’s strategy was to get a Hispanic turnout of 55 to 60 percent and to win 75 percent of them. Garcia got 45,076 votes in the municipal election; he upped his vote in those wards in the runoff to 69,297, an increase of just 24,221. Clearly, for Hispanics, the 2015 election was no "Harold Washington moment." Garcia will remain a player on the city stage, but this was his only chance to make history. There was no black-Hispanic coalition, and there never will be. Future runoffs will be white versus black. Had Toni Preckwinkle or Karen Lewis run, black turnout would have soared and Emanuel likely would have lost.
Despite having spent $30 million during 2014-15 and having purchased 14,000 gross rating points on television, the mayor’s win was underwhelming. He is no longer a politician on the make, he is on the wane. Statewide office is now beyond his grasp. He will never be governor or senator, nor would any Democrat want him as a candidate for vice president. He has too much baggage, and he simply is not likable. He adds nothing to the ticket.
His predecessor, Rich Daley, after a close election in 1989, was re-elected with close to 70 percent of the vote. Daley’s "fatigue factor" surfaced after 20 years; for Emanuel it took only 4. Given the enormity of the city’s $20 billion pension shortfall and the draconian tax and revenue increases needed, there is little doubt that Emanuel will be unelectable by 2019. Emanuel’s sole bailout would be to get a spot in Hillary Clinton’s cabinet.
The jousting for 2019 has already begun, with the aldermen having to choose a new vice mayor to replace Ray Suarez, who was defeated.
Send e-mail to russ@russstewart. com or visit his Web site at www. russstewart.com.