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A game of 21: Mendoza, Brown join crowded mayoral field vying for ballot

Susana Mendoza filing petitions to get on the ballot

Susana Mendoza filed ballot petitions containing about 25,000 signatures on Monday. | Fran Spielman/Sun-Times

Two mayoral candidates — Susana Mendoza and Dorothy Brown — appeared to be in the most vulnerable position as the filing period ended Monday and the campaign entered the petition challenge phase that’s expected to winnow the field.

Brown and Mendoza each filed roughly 25,000 signatures. That’s only double the legal requirement of 12,500 and well below the more than 40,000 filed by fellow Monday filer state Rep. La Shawn Ford.

Candidates typically shoot for triple the minimum to provide the legal cushion they need to survive a challenge.

“You need 12,500 good ones, right? That’s what matters, and that’s the number we were shooting for,” Mendoza said.

“It’s gonna be enough. We worked really hard to get those. And we validated our signatures … before we turned `em in. So, we’re good. We’re gonna be on the ballot … We were working under a very short time period, but I think we did a pretty awesome job.”

Mendoza acknowledged that she got a late start because she first needed to get re-elected state comptroller.

“If we would have had four or five months like the other candidates, we’d have more signatures. But, I think it’s impressive that we got over 25,000 in about a three-week span,” she said.

When the dust clears on a lengthy and costly challenge process that could drag on through much of December, Brown said she, too, expects to be on the ballot.

“We’ve already done our verifications and we’re running 70 [to] 80 percent accuracy,” Brown said.

When the week-long filing period closed Monday, 21 candidates had submitted petitions for the mayoral race. That’s one more than eight years ago — the last time the mayor’s office was up for grabs. In that race, to succeed retiring Mayor Richard M. Daley, 20 men and women had filed for mayor at the close of the filing period. But only six wound up on the ballot after challenges and candidate withdrawals.

This year, Brown and three other mayoral candidates — Bill Daley, Gery Chico and Garry McCarthy — lined up early Monday to present nominating petitions on the final day of filing, skipping the lottery for first and last place on the ballot.

That lottery for the bottom spot will be held Dec. 5, and will have six entrants who filed late Monday: former alderman Bob Fioretti; activist Ja’Mal Green; Ford; John Kozlar; entrepreneur Neal Sales-Griffin; and former Police Board president Lori Lightfoot.

Petition challenges are due by 5 p.m. on Dec. 3.

Bill Daley, the son and brother of Chicago mayors, checked in with 45,000 signatures, along with a headline-grabbing proposal to lower the bar for future mayoral campaigns.

“The Legislature’s got to look at this whole process and say, `What’s a real number?’ We’re much higher than any other major city. It ought to be lowered,” Bill Daley said.

Bill Daley

Mayoral candidate Bill Daley (right) files roughly 45,000 signatures Monday on the final day of filing. Daley will join the lottery for last place on the ballot that includes Gery Chico, Garry McCarthy and Dorothy Brown. | Fran Spielman/Sun-Times

“And the thought that, [with] people [getting] in at different stages of this campaign, if you sign one petition you can’t sign another is a little disingenuous considering we want more ballot access. We want more people involved in the process.”

Bill Daley didn’t flinch when reminded that the current restrictions were tailor-made to benefit his father and brother, who ruled Chicago for 43 years.

“Thanks for pointing that out,” Bill Daley said. “Obviously, my proposal is very different than theirs. It’s one of many differences between family members, as [with] every family.”

Chico begged to differ with Bill Daley after filing “a little over 32,000” signatures.

He’s all for allowing registered voters to sign the nominating petition of more than one mayoral candidate.

“This isn’t a vote. So, we’re not implicating the Constitution [clause], `One person, one vote,’ “ he said.

But, Chico said he does not support reducing the signature requirement below 12,500.

“There ought to be some rigor here. This is a very important office. There’s a lot of peoples’ lives that are impacted by who this individual will be,” he said.

McCarthy, the fired Chicago police superintendent, said he filed “around 55,000” signatures after knocking out roughly 10,000 he deemed invalid.

“We feel very good about it. We had a lot of volunteers … and we ended up paying for a lot of it, too, because volunteers — they kind of trail off, as I’m learning,” he said.

Paid circulators are dangerous. Lured by the bounty, many cut corners.

But, McCarthy said, “We’ve had people reviewing over and over again. We’re very confident that the number we put in is gonna get us there.”

Asked whether he intends to challenge anybody else’s petitions, McCarthy said only: “Maybe.”

“Everybody who’s in it is game,” he said. “Some of us draw from the same constituencies.”

Toni Preckwinkle, Willie Wilson, Paul Vallas and Jeremiah Joyce Jr. — will enter a lottery for the top spot on the ballot. All four filed in the first hour of the first day last week.

Mendoza and Amara Enyia also opted out of both lotteries by filing in mid-afternoon of the final day.

But, the 62,000 signatures Enyia filed mid-afternoon were tailor-made to make a political statement.

They’re even more than the roughly 60,000 filed by Preckwinkle, the County Board president who doubles as chairman of the Cook County Democratic Central Committee. Mendoza, who got off to a late start, filed “close to 30,000″ signatures.

“We didn’t have the advantage of decades of political experience [or] the advantage of an entire party infrastructure. We simply had a message. We had enthusiasm from people who believe in the vision for the city and we worked extremely hard and extremely creatively,” Enyia said.

“That is a very strong statement — not only about the quality of our campaign, but where the city is and the response that we had from people, many of whom said: `I’ve never gotten involved in the political process until now.'”

Enyia acknowledged that the celebrity endorsement she got from Chance the Rapper has elevated her candidacy and generated excitement, particularly among the “18-to-37 demographic” that turned out heavily during the mid-term elections.

“Endorsements will only take you so far if there’s no substance. He definitely helped give it that boost of visibility. But the substance is what’s created the groundswell,” Enyia said.

Garry McCarthy

Mayoral candidate Garry McCarthy (right) files roughly 55,000 signatures Monday morning. He said his campaign deleted some 10,000 signatures determined to be invalid. | Fran Spielman/Sun-Times

Rounding out the field were a handful of low-profile hopefuls: Catherine Brown D’Tycoon, Conrien Hykes Clark, Sandra L. Mallory, Roger L. Washington and Richard Mayers. Mayers, a resident of the Southwest Side Clearing neighborhood, also filed to run for city clerk, city treasurer and 23rd Ward alderman.

Altogether, 211 men and women filed to run for aldermen. Only four of the city’s 50 wards did not see contested races, all represented by sitting aldermen: Brian Hopkins in the 2nd, Scott Waguespack in the 32nd, Gilbert Villegas in the 36th and Brendan Reilly in the 42nd.

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