Emanuel, Garcia face key tests in runoff vote

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SHARE Emanuel, Garcia face key tests in runoff vote

Plenty of tests await Mayor Rahm Emanuel and his challenger, Cook County Commissioner Jesus Garcia.

OPINION

Let’s look at a few:

TEST #1: THE BLACK VOTE

African-Americans carried Emanuel to victory four years ago on the conviction that he was “somebody that somebody sent.” That Somebody was the first black president of the United States.

This time around, pre-election bro-hugs notwithstanding, the ground has shifted under both Barack Obama and his former chief of staff, Emanuel.

The mayor got significantly fewer black votes this time around, though he still came in first ahead of Willie Wilson, followed by Garcia in black wards.

What will be Garcia’s counterclaim?

He’ll point to his early alliance with Chicago’s first black mayor, Harold Washington. And the fact that while in the Illinois state Senate in the 1990s, he and Senate colleague Miguel del Valle were the first two Hispanics to join the Black Caucus.

Endorsements will be interesting.

What will Willie Wilson, the African-American millionaire who came in 2nd in black wards, do? Whom will County Board President Toni Preckwinkle back? Their voices will be more important in April than President Obama’s was in February.

TEST #2: THE WHITE ETHNIC VOTE

The bungalow belt along Chicago’s Northwest and Southwest Sides is a complicated vote. The Emanuel forces believe citizens here worry more about their property tax bills, which the mayor has not raised, than income inequality arguments advanced by Garcia.

Whatever the focus, the wards in these parts of the city hold a high percentage of union members and government workers.

Pensions — and whatever solution is deemed constitutional to solve their insolvency — is a flame that burns brightly here.

The announcement on Friday of Moody’s downgrade of the city’s bonds is another piece of dreadful news. Garcia claims it is further evidence of the fiscal cliff the mayor has failed to pull us back from. But Emanuel points to a variety of ratings agencies that have said positive things about his efforts to rein in debt.

Neither Garcia nor Emanuel has been specific about painful revenue remedies that will, in the view of voters, squeeze blood from a turnip.

TEST #3: THE HISPANIC VOTE

This is Garcia’s base but it has not been a homogeneous vote. When Garcia was in the Legislature, it was the Hispanic Democratic Organization (HDO) in concert with Mayor Daley that set out to kill his re-election because he was not playing ball with the regulars.

Elected officials like city clerk Susana Mendoza and U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez were campaign co-chairs for the mayor in the February election. And remain supporters now. And Cook County Democratic Chairman Joe Berrios, who is also the assessor of Cook County, is no friend of Garcia’s but waged his own battles for control in aldermanic races. But their coattails are in serious doubt.

Will Hispanic voters turn out for Garcia as African-Americans did for Washington in 1983?

You’d have to think so.

This election is a horse race.

A fascinating story.

But the candidates both have a lot of evangelizing left to do.

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