Age, gender, race to decide next mayor
Analysis and opinion by Russ Stewart
The consensus among some political insiders is that Paul Vallas, despite poll numbers in the 44-46 percent range, is going to lose to Brandon Johnson in the April 4 mayoral runoff.
Chicago is not the Chicago it used to be, they muse, and the Far Left is storming the proverbial barricades.
I don’t think so. Not yet.
ONE: The age, gender and racial composition of the runoff turnout is critical for Vallas. He needs to get 67-70 percent of the over-45 demographic to win, and that’s because Johnson, running as the trendy Black “democratic socialist,” will get 65 percent-plus from the under-45ers, of whom two-thirds are now Woke Leftists.
Make no mistake: This is a generational election and the last gasp of the post WWII baby boomers versus those born after 1975. It’s an Old White guy (Vallas is 68) versus a 47-year old Socialist firebrand who will commence the process of transforming the city into the Utopian paradises like Washington, D.C., San Francisco, Seattle, Portland, Minneapolis, NYC and Atlanta, where crackpot ideas and police defunding are the norm … and for some odd reason feces in the street. Many Chicagoans believe the worst is yet to come – if not in 2023 then certainly in 2027.
Vallas, like that old Marine recruiting slogan, is looking for a whole lot of good men. He needs them to turn out in numbers equal to women – like 50/50, not the usual 47/53 (women) – and he needs at least 55-57 percent of men to vote for him. And that’s because 55 percent of women voters, especially younger, unmarried females, are likely going with Johnson.
Vallas needs to crack into the minority vote. Vallas needs at least half of Willie Wilson’s vote (51,567), which came mostly from older church-going types (mostly women) and well over half of Chuy Garcia’s vote (77,222), particularly from the Southwest Side Mexican-American wards where the American Dream still exists and thrives. Wilson has endorsed Vallas. Garcia endorsed Johnson.
Johnson, a CTU organizer, a former teacher, and a county commissioner went to Aurora University, and never tried to define himself in a racial context.
He’s foremost a doctrinaire ideologue with – as Vallas is hammering him in TV ads and mailers – “extreme” positions. Specifically he has called for $800 million more in city spending including property increases, atop the $16.4 billion 2023 budget, and for defunding CPD by $150 million. But he reversed himself on March 27, saying “not one penny” will be cut from CPD. He’s been backtracking on many things he said in the past.
Nevertheless, Black voters are rallying behind Johnson because he is just that, an extremist in his own right, a radical. Johnson got 19 percent in the 17 Black wards and Vallas about 5. If, as some polls suggest, Johnson is winning the Black vote 80-20 and their turnout is over 30 percent, then Johnson wins. Vallas needs to get 30 percent. There won’t be enough White wards, like the 41st, 38th, 39th, 45th, 19th and 13th, to counter-balance 80-20.
The year 2023 will be a “tipping point” where the political fabric of Chicago fundamentally changes. It did in 1983, when Harold Washington made Chicago’s Blacks relevant, in terms of voting power. It will again be this year, when Johnson makes Woke/Leftists into a powerful citywide coalition.
TWO: The four most recent polls show undecideds at 10-16 percent. That seems high at this late date. But both candidates seem to have locked-in their base, with Johnson having slightly more momentum. The March 25 Emerson-WGN poll was at 46.3/40.6/13 for Vallas/Johnson/Undecided; the March 23 Victory Research poll had it at 46.5/44.2/10; the March16 IZQ poll had it at 46/44/10; and an earlier March 9 Victory Research had it at 44.9/39.1/16, indicating undecideds may be dwindling and breaking toward Johnson. Vallas seems to have plateau at 45-46.
THREE: The combined Feb. 28 vote for the more centrist, law-and-order candidates (\Vallas/Wilson) was 237,310, while that for the Center-Left to Leftmost/socialist candidates (Lightfoot/Garcia/Johnson) was 294,206 in a turnout of 566,923, or 35.8 percent. Turnout will be higher on April 4, as it was in 2015’s runoff (590,733).
So 300,000 is the “Magic Number.” Vallas starts with his Feb. 28 185,743 and Johnson his 122,093. Vallas must GROW by 115,000 and Johnson by 178,000. Johnson’s task is the easier. Watch the election night tally. If Vallas is up only 8-10,000 he will be counted-out when late mail-in ballot cast by younger voters arrive. He needs to be winning 52-48.
FOUR: Vallas will spend close to $12 million, and Johnson $9 million. Vallas has only now begun to demonize Johnson, wasting weeks after Feb. 28. Johnson is trying to nationalize the race, tossing in abortion and tabbing Vallas as a closet Republican. The runoff is NOT now a referendum on Johnson, but a choice. That gives Johnson a path to win.
FIVE: This is union “class warfare:” The working-class trades versus the elitist public sector unions. A lot is at stake. If Johnson wins, CTU will run City Hall. If Vallas wins, it will be business-as-usual.
Vallas can win IF the above align, IF turnout is under 550,000, IF he motivates the already-persuaded anti-Johnson soon-to-be Geriatric Generation to vote, and IF “manpower” literally manifests itself. Prediction: Vallas wins by 15,000.
45TH WARD: The self-evident consensus is that as goes Vallas so goes Alderman Jim Gardiner. Vallas will win a majority in the ward, as he did on Feb. 28, getting 52.3 percent and 8,453 votes. Add to that Willie Wilson’s 1,217 votes and the 45th’s conservative/pro-police voter base is about 60 percent, or 9,670 votes. Gardiner, who had a notably rocky first term, needs to run not less than 5 points behind Vallas to triumph on April 4. In fact, Gardiner DID run 770 votes and 4.3 points behind Vallas on Feb. 28.
ONE: Like North Carolina’s legendary and polarizing Jesse Helms, who was hated by many but adored by just a few more, Gardiner must hope that his record of providing services eclipses his much-publicized poor judgment in texting etiquette. His Feb. 28 numbers are encouraging: He got 7,683 votes last month and 7,570 in 2019, so his base hasn’t cracked. And he was already despised by the ward’s progressives for decisively ousting alderman John Arena in 2019, holding him to a puny 36.2 percent, losing 33 of 48 precincts.
TWO: Gardiner is clinging to the presumption that everybody who votes for Vallas will vote for him. Likewise, runoff opponent Megan Mathias is clinging to the presumption that ALL of the 52 percent (8,492) that DID NOT vote for Gardiner WILL vote for her. Gardiner’s “presumption” is the more plausible, although Mathias is busily going negative on Gardiner, trying to assemble an anti-Gardiner — but not solely Woke, Leftist or pro-Johnson — coalition and hoping to squish his vote by a couple hundred.
Vallas posted a solid victory in the 45th on Feb 28. Of the ward’s 29 precincts, Vallas got a majority in 16 and a plurality in 12, garnering 51-59 percent in 8, more than 60 in 6 and over 70 in two. There is no reason to think Vallas won’t replicate or even improve it in the runoff, with 60 percent doable. Johnson won a plurality in one precinct, in the Old Irving area. And there is no reason to think any of Johnson’s voters, who will number around 40 percent, will vote for Gardiner.
Gardiner won an outright majority in 14 and a plurality in 14. He got 50-59 percent in 8, over 60 in 5 and over 70 in one. That’s almost identical to Vallas’s performance. James Suh won a plurality in one. So there IS a Vallas/Gardiner voter nexus.
THREE: Mathias, an attorney, definitely failed to impress voters, as did Suh, Susanna Ernst, Ana Santoyo and Marija Tomic. They got a cumulative 8,492 votes, but none broke out. Despite claiming to have “knocked on 10,000 doors” over 20 months and raising over $150,000, Mathias got 2,699 votes on Feb. 28, just 16.9 percent. She won 5 precincts with over 20 percent, one with over 30, and 5 with under ten percent. In a ward with 22,000 housing units, Mathias’s feat underwhelms.
Mathias has been endorsed by Suh, Ernst, state rep Lindsay LaPointe (D-19) and the Chicago Tribune. She has sent out mailers, all questioning Gardiner’s “temperament” and thus fitness for office, highlighting WBEZ Radio’s allegation that Gardiner is allegedly “under investigation by the FBI” for pay-to-play politics and charging that Gardiner has “weaponized” his office to punish constituents. Social media is awash with photos of Mathias attending a 2020 “Black Lives Matter” rally that included people carrying anti-police signs outside her law office, comments on her DUI and bankruptcy, and most recently taking a campaign donation from a guardian in a divorce case she was actively handling.
Gardiner has run a strange campaign too, not hiring a campaign manager until recently and not mailing earlier in the runoff.
Prediction: Expect Vallas to get more than 9,000 votes and drag Gardiner to victory with 51 percent. Clinging works. There are times when the LEAST WORST candidate wins, not the best. This is one of them.