The mob taking on Emanuel figure to give him a run for his money

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Mayor Rahm Emanuel Emanuel on Friday declared Chicago’s drinking water safe and defended his administration’s handling of the controversy after his Department of Water Management went public with alarming news that 17.2 percent of tested Chicago homes with water meters had elevated lead levels. | Sun-Times files

Will the almighty dollar prevail in Chicago’ s mayoral race?

The greenbacks have already conquered the Illinois 2018 gubernatorial contest. The only question now is whether campaign spending will break the national record, the $280 million spent in the 2010 California gubernatorial campaign.

In Illinois, the two uber-wealthy nominees combined have raised nearly $150 million, according to the latest update from the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform. J.B. Pritzker clocks in with $76.5 million. Gov. Bruce Rauner, $75.8 million so far.

Conservative Party candidate Sam McCann, who jumped into the race last month, has brought in $544,692.


In the February 2019 mayoral election, there already are seven candidates vying to unseat Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

As of May 1, Emanuel’s challengers have raised a combined total of “just over $5 million in cash on hand for next year’s election,” shows an ICPR analysis.

“Emanuel has $4.7 million on hand, 18 times more than the combined total of his challengers,” ICPR reports.

Eighteen times.

Emanuel is fiercely showing his money, hoping to intimidate a growing mob of opponents.

In 2015, Emanuel raised $24.4 million to win his second term and spent nearly every dime. Cook County Commissioner Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, who forced Emanuel into a runoff, raised $7.1 million.

Money is the best thing Emanuel’s got going. There’s a lot of political moolah sloshing around Chicago, and Emanuel is deftly locking down the major donors. The two-term incumbent operates on fear and muscle. Anyone who needs City Hall will fear to cross him.

In its report, the ICPR asked, “Will Mayoral Challengers Step Up to Give Emanuel a Run for His Money?”

Should they step up? Indeed, the complexities and pressures of 21st century campaigns require lots of cash, to finance everything from the ground game to social media buzz. And fundraising capacity indicates whether a candidate resonates with a broad base of donors.

The danger is that candidates will be judged by their bottom lines, and how much personal wealth or how many special interests they can corral into their pockets. Money usually corrupts.

Last week Paul Vallas kicked off his campaign by declaring he won’t be stepping up.

The former CEO of the Chicago Public Schools told the media he expects to raise between $3 million and $5 million.

He’s smart to lower expectations.

Most of Emanuel’s current crop of opponents have few natural ties to big-money donors. Businessman Willie Wilson has written his campaign a $100,000 personal check, but that’s chump change in Rahm Land.

How about another way to “step up?” Neutralize the power of Emanuel’s money by tapping into growing voter unease about the unseemly sums being spent in the governor’s race.

Run a populist race aimed at getting money out of our politics. Decline contributions from donors who do business with city government and its sister agencies. Promise to be an honest broker for the voters. Take the for-sale sign off the 5th Floor of City Hall.

A timely footnote: A source close to City Treasurer Kurt Summers tells me he is seriously eyeing a mayoral run. Summers, whom Emanuel appointed treasurer in 2014, is meeting with a wide array of influential players. He is planning a positive campaign theme, rather than an anti-Emanuel mantra. More to come.


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