Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s camp is more convinced than ever that Toni Preckwinkle is not planning to run for mayor after perusing the Cook County Board president’s latest campaign financing report.
The quarterly report filed Tuesday shows Preckwinkle with $696,812 of cash on hand after raising $169,455 during the first three months of this year and spending $376,367.
“If she was serious about running, she wouldn’t be spending so much and raising so little,” said a source in the mayor’s camp.
“She spent more than she raised. That says loud and clear that she’s not running.”
The Emanuel adviser acknowledged that Preckwinkle “could still change her mind.”
But the source noted that any effort to ramp up quickly would be hamstrung by a state campaign financing law that limits contributions to $5,300 from individuals, $10,500 from corporations and labor organizations and $52,600 from political action committees or candidate political committees.
“That’s the reality of fundraising. It’s singles and doubles—not home runs. That takes a lot of time and effort,” the mayoral confidante said.
Preckwinkle’s camp countered that the county board president has the time to put together the resources to bankroll a competitive mayoral campaign if that’s what she ultimately decides to do.
Unions at odds with the mayor are free to spend unlimited amounts—either to build Preckwinkle up or tear Emanuel down—provided they do not coordinate with her campaign.
Preckwinkle is running for re-election unopposed in November. To run for mayor, she would need to get re-elected and turn right around and declare her candidacy against Emanuel. That’s what then-State’s Attorney Richard M. Daley did in 1988.
Last year, Preckwinkle raised more than $1 million in the second quarter. Her first-quarter fundraising looks particularly paltry compared with Emanuel’s fundraising frenzy. He has $7.4 million in cash on hand after raking in another $1.4 million during the first three months of this year.
In an interview with the Chicago Sun-Times last month, the mayor was asked why he is continuing to raise money at such a fast clip with no formidable opponent in the race.
“I’ve been around politics helping President Clinton get elected and re-elected, President Obama get elected and re-elected. I’ve done it, not just for myself but to help Nancy Pelosi become the first female speaker,” the mayor said then. “You prepare — not for a candidate. You prepare for an election to tell the voters what you’ve done and also what you plan on doing because elections are about tomorrow.”
The mayor’s support among African-American voters has plummeted, and Preckwinkle is the challenger City Hall fears most. But Emanuel told the Sun-Times during that same interview that Preckwinkle had assured him privately that she has no intention of running for mayor.
Emanuel said he took Preckwinkle at her word, even though she’s been the most outspoken critic of the mayor’s school closings, charter school openings, school budget cuts and the seven-day teachers strike that Emanuel helped to instigate.
“She has said that and I believe she’s a person of her word. … I believe she’s not running. I also believe more importantly what she has said why she ran for county board president was the criminal justice system and health care and that her work is not done,” Emanuel said then.
Preckwinkle’s camp responded to the mayor’s comments by sending conflicting signals about her political future. About a week later, Preckwinkle pointedly refused to rule out a race for mayor.
Earlier this week, Ald. Bob Fioretti (2nd) accused Emanuel of presiding over the “widening of Chicago into two cities” and hinted strongly at a race for mayor as Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis cheered him on from the City Club audience.
After the speech, Lewis said she was delighted to hear Fioretti sound so much like a candidate for mayor and said she’s rooting for him to forge ahead with the campaign. That is, if Preckwinkle decides not to run.
“Clearly, the polls support her. There have been quite a few serious polls that have been done that say that Toni could beat him,” Lewis said.
And why is she so determined to defeat Emanuel?
“Fifty [schools] closing. Mental health clinics closed. This whole notion of taking pensions away. It’s like he’s had a heat-seeking mode on the people who have the least amount of voice in this city so he can sort of run roughshod over them. I just don’t think that’s an effective way to govern,” Lewis said.