It’s a new race, and the next mayor of Chicago may not yet be in the hunt.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel returned from the Labor Day holiday and turned his city upside down. Emanuel’s announcement that he won’t run for a third term sent a thunderbolt through the 2019 mayoral campaign.
Twelve people had been running against him, some for months, vying to be The One.
Now comes a massive, new crop of aspirants, some toting marquee names, long resumes, and the capacity to turn heads. They are making the phone calls, doing the polling, lining up eager consultants. As many as 40 people, thinking big and talking bigger.
Go figure. Emanuel is walking away from a job he claims to love. Like him or not, no one out there has the national pedigree and skill sets he brings. But he occupies a very hot seat, one of the most difficult jobs in America, and will leave his successor facing myriad perils.
The One will need much more than talk and a name. The job requires unflinching political skills, keen public policy and management acumen, and broad community relationships across a hugely diverse city.
In this era of Me Too, that calls for a woman.
Chicago has elected only one female mayor. Jane M. Byrne, elected in 1979, was a feisty campaigner who took on the old boys in the Democratic Party machine. Once elected, she turned City Hall over to the old boys. Many never forgave that betrayal.
Now, in Chicago, Illinois and the nation, women are organizing, running and winning office at record numbers.
Among the horde of 40, there are two Chicago women who could run well in the February mayoral election, clear the field of the ego trippers and poseurs, and be The One.
Toni Preckwinkle served five terms as 4th Ward alderman and is the Democratic Party nominee for a third term as Cook County Board president. The chair of the Cook County Democratic Party is a no-nonsense, African-American Hyde Parker with tight ties to labor, the political establishment and progressives.
Preckwinkle’s biggest flaw is her no-holds-barred support of the county’s despised sweetened beverage tax, which was rescinded by the county board.
On Monday, she will announce an exploratory run for mayor.
Illinois Comptroller Susana Mendoza is a high-energy charmer, a first-generation Mexican-American who lives in Portage Park on the city’s Northwest Side. The fast up-and-comer is finishing her first term — a two-year term — managing the state’s bills. In 2011 she became the first woman elected Chicago City Clerk and previously was a state representative.
Mendoza is also politically tethered to Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, America’s second most hated politician. (“You-know-who” is No. 1).
Preckwinkle and Mendoza would face another problem in a mayoral run. Democratic Party voters have vigorously nominated them for other offices in the Nov. 6 election: Preckwinkle, for a third term as county board president, Mendoza, for re-election as comptroller.
How do they build support, cash in political chits, raise big bucks and clear the field while “running” for another office? How can they stand before voters and pledge service for one job while plotting for another? Then walk away to the fifth floor of City Hall?
Won’t voters find that presumptuous, calculating and venal?
Another kind of betrayal?