$700,000 of support in solid victory by Arena
by RUSS STEWART
For shrewd entrepreneurs, venture capital is always OPM, or other people’s money. Never risk your own money. Ditto in politics. Why self-fund if there’s plenty of OPM?
On April 7, John Garrido got OPM’d in the 45th Ward aldermanic race. He found that you can’t beat $703,559. Incumbent John Arena used that amount to cruise to a solid 8,488-7,263 victory, getting 53.9 percent of the vote, carrying 31 of the ward’s 48 precincts, and getting 60 percent of the vote or more in 15 of them. Inasmuch as Arena beat Garrido in the 2011 runoff 6,083-6,053, the 2015 result was a veritable landslide. Arena got 2,405 more votes than in the 2011 runoff and 2,574 more votes on April 7 than on Feb. 24.
Attribute Arena’s win to five factors: money, base, incumbency, imagery and intensity/turnout.
First, Arena outspent Garrido 3-1. "There was mailbox fatigue," Garrido said, referring to the almost-daily avalanche of Arena mailers, which he said numbered about 60 from Dec. 1 to April 7. "People were getting two a day," Garrido said. According to filings with the Illinois Board of Elections, Arena’s campaign committee raised $376,095 during 2014-15, of which $218,853 was donated by unions, including $79,560 from the Service Employees International Union, $50,000 from the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, ($50,753 from the Chicago Teachers Union and $13,000 from the United Food and Commercial Workers Union.
It didn’t stop there. The SEIU dumped another $327,464 in "independent expenditures" into the contest, mostly on negative mailers ripping Garrido as a "George Bush," "Sarah Palin" and "Tea Party" Republican," and on cable television ads, The union also dispatched dozens of precinct workers and manned a get-out-the-vote operation on both Feb. 24 and April 7. Under federal law, independent expenditures are paid for by an outside party, and they cannot coordinate with the candidate supported. "They were coordinated," Garrido said.
The SEIU, which implacably opposed Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s stances on pension reform, charter schools, school closings, the school strike and police hires, spent $407,239 on the 45th Ward race — 58 percent of what Arena spent. Does that mean Arena is in the union’s pocket? Of course. Is he just a rent an alderman? Not according to a source with the SEIU: "He’s with us," the source said. "He votes with us. It was important that we keep him in the council. We spent whatever it took."
Garrido was in an unenviable and ultimately untenable position. It is said that the enemy of my enemy is my friend. Hence, the mayor should have helped Garrido in order to oust Arena, who had the highest anti-Emanuel voting record of any alderman during 2011-15, but not a dollar from Chicago Forward or any pro-Emanuel political action committee or source flowed to Garrido, although those committees funded anti-Arena mailers. The 2011 race indelibly branded Garrido, a Chicago police lieutenant, as a Republican, as he had run for Cook County Board president in the 2010 primary and had voted Republican in that primary.
So the dilemma of the Emanuel allies was clear — they wanted anybody but arena. In the municipal election, Michelle Baert and Mike Diaz ran as sort of pro-Emanuel. Despite a year-long campaign, "45th Ward Mom" Baert got just 1,726 votes (13.3 percent) and Diaz got 204 votes. If he were elected, Garrido would not be pro-Emanuel, so the mayor’s people took a pass, the unions spent large, Garrido raised about $225,000 ($27,690 from himself, and $41,500 from the Fraternal Order of Police and the police sergeants), and Arena won by 1,225 votes.
Garrido needed to reinvent himself, and he needed to give voters a reason not to re-elect Arena. The SEIU honchos understood that they just had to keep hammering Garrido as a Republican. Garrido complained that Arena’s antagonism toward Emanuel meant ward services were diminished. The SEIU mailers claimed otherwise, and they went negative. Even though the SEIU endorsed firefighter Anthony Napolitano in the 41st Ward, despite the fact that he had voted Republican in several primaries, Garrido’s cardinal sin was unforgiven.
Contrary to the SEIU’s expectations, Arena failed to get a majority in the municipal election and win re outright. He got 5,914 votes (45.5 percent of the total cast), to 5,164 (39.7 percent) for Garrido, in a turnout of 13,008. Adding Arena’s 5,914 votes to his runoff vote of 8,488, a total of 14,402, it cost the alderman $48.85 per vote in OPM to triumph.
Second, Arena’s liberal, anti-Emanuel base in Portage Park delivered, and he even expanded it into Jefferson Park. The 45th Ward has 48 precincts, and Arena won all 20 precincts south of Lawrence Avenue and 26 of the 32 precincts south of Foster Avenue. Arena won 31 precincts and tied in one, to 16 for Garrido — a remarkable accomplishment. In the municipal election, Arena won a majority in 16 precincts and a plurality in 13 (to eight and 11 for Garrido). Those 29 precincts that delivered 4,273 Arena votes in the municipal election stuck with him in the runoff, when he got 6,499votes.
The 45th Ward is divided into three distinct geographic areas.
Portage Park includes the 14 precincts south of Montrose Avenue and southwest of the Kennedy Expressway to Addison Street, as well areas of Old Irving and Independence Park. That is Arena’s base. On April 7 Arena crushed Garrido 3,254-1,675 in that area, getting 66 percent of the vote and winning four precincts with more than 70 percent and eight with more than 60 percent.
Jefferson Park includes the 18 precincts between Foster and Montrose avenues, east of Cicero Avenue to Nagle Avenue. More conservative and working class, with lots of city workers and first responders, that area should have been solidly for Garrido as it was in 2011, when Garrido won two-thirds of the precincts. Obviously, incumbency matters.
Arena has been a visible, voluble and some say volatile alderman. "Mr. Likeability" he’s not. It’s the Arena way or the highway, but in 4 years he has entrenched himself, and he won 12 of 18 Jefferson Park precincts, getting 3,644 votes to 3,811 for Garrido, a margin of 167 votes.
Garrido’s firewall was Gladstone Park, which contains 16 precincts. To beat Arena, Garrido needed to run up a 3-2 margin to offset Arena’s lead in his Portage Park base. He didn’t. Garrido won 11 precincts, but his margin was just 1,777-1,590 (with 52.7 percent of the vote). He won two precincts with more than 70 percent and three with more than 60 percent. It wasn’t enough.
Third, there was the intensity/turnout factor, which, combined with early voting, wreaked havoc on Garrido’s strategy. Customarily, at least since Chicago’s nonpartisan municipal election/runoff system took effect in 1999, turnout in the runoff has declined, largely because there was no mayoral runoff to boost voter interest. Turnout in 2011 was 15,879 in the seven-candidate 45th Ward aldermanic municipal election (in which Emanuel won the mayoral race), but it dropped to 12,136 in the Arena-Garrido runoff, a falloff of 3,743.
On Feb. 24 Emanuel topped Chuy Garcia in the ward 6,243-4,545, getting 48.1 percent of the vote in a turnout of 12,991. Turnout surged to 15,716 in the runoff, an increased of 2,725. Emanuel’s vote rose from 6,243 to 9,309 (an increase of 3,066), while Garcia’s rose to 6,407 (an increase of 1,862). It wreaked havoc on Garrido’s strategy. He anticipated that turnout would be down and that all he needed to do was capture the anti-Arena vote of Baert (who endorsed Garrido) and Diaz. Neither Arena nor Garrido made an endorsement in the mayoral race, and that’s when everything got hopelessly muddled.
"Every voting household was getting an Arena mailer almost daily, all hyping his ‘independence,’" Garrido said. Yet at the same time, he said, a groundswell was developing among voters who emphatically did not want Garcia as mayor and who feared that Garcia would jack up property taxes even more than Emanuel to solve the pension mess. "Here were a couple thousand voters who didn’t turn out on Feb. 24, who wanted Emanuel to be mayor, but who wanted an anti-Emanuel alderman, which was clearly Arena," Garrido said. It was a campaign strategist’s worst nightmare, compounded by early voting.
The Baert-Diaz vote (1,930) drifted to Garrido, but the surge of 3,000 new voters — those who backed both Emanuel and Garcia — opted for Arena. The SEIU’s "hang George Bush around his neck" strategy worked flawlessly, as it did in 2011. Garrido’s "brand" was sullied beyond redemption.
Fourth, the 2011 remap solidified Arena. In 2011 the City Council redrew the ward’s boundaries, chopping out a whopping nine pro-Garrido precincts: three north of Peterson Avenue (Indian Woods), two north of Elston Avenue, and four in Forest Glen-Edgebrook. That cost Garrido roughly 700 votes. The remap added liberal areas south and east of Portage Park (Old Irving and Independence Park), generating votes for Arena.
Fifth, Arena was a ubiquitous presence in the ward. He wasn’t like his predecessor, Pat Levar, who sat in his office, expecting constituents to be supplicants. Arena was out and about.
What does the future hold? Emanuel raised and spent $35 million to retain his job. Adding his municipal election (214,988) and runoff (329,701) votes, a total of 544,689, the mayor spent about $64.25 per vote. Emanuel likely will not run again in 2019. If he doesn’t, Arena (and the SEIU) certainly will, and if the 45th Ward seat is open, Garrido will be back.
Send e-mail to russ@russstewart. com or visit his Web site at www. russstewart.com.