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‘Now the games begin’: Five officially enter mayor’s race — 13 more to go?

Five are in.

And the clock is ticking for some 13 others vying to become Chicago’s next mayor.

The weeklong period for candidates to file the required nominating signatures to get on the Feb. 26 ballot kicked off on Monday.

Former Chicago Public Schools CEO Paul Vallas, businessman and philanthropist Willie Wilson, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, attorney Jerry Joyce and activist Catherine Brown D’Tycoon were among those who filed nominating signatures for the mayor’s race on Monday morning.

It was also the beginning of the filing period for aldermanic candidates for races in all 50 wards, as well as city treasurer and city clerk. They all must file nominating signatures in the basement of the Cook County Building at 69 W. Washington.

Filing petitions is a legal requirement, but it’s also rife with political theater.

Paul Vallas presents his documentation to run for mayor on the first day of the filing period for Municipal Elections, Monday, November 19th, 2018. | James Foster/For the Sun-Times

Paul Vallas presents his documentation to run for mayor on the first day of the filing period for Municipal Elections, Monday, November 19th, 2018. | James Foster/For the Sun-Times

Vallas kept his stack of nominating signatures under an old upturned garbage bin for safekeeping. To emphasize the considerable weight of his stack, Wilson said that his bad back prevented him from lifting all of his signatures to get on the ballot.

“I want the press to take a look at this right here,” Wilson said, pointing to a tidy pile of paperwork.

His back is fine, Wilson later admitted with a chuckle.

WIllie Wilson speaks with the media while in line for the first day of the filing period for Municipal Elections, Monday, November 19th, 2018. | James Foster/For the Sun-Times

WIllie Wilson speaks with the media while in line for the first day of the filing period for Municipal Elections, Monday, November 19th, 2018. | James Foster/For the Sun-Times

Preckwinkle posed for pictures by giant letters spelling her name as she turned in her mayoral petitions.

“Now the games begin,” said Vallas, a former Chicago Public Schools CEO.

The previous months of campaigning?

“A warm-up,” Vallas said.

County Board President Toni Preckwinkle with members of her election team and her petition in line for the first day of the filing period for Municipal Elections, Monday, November 19th, 2018. | James Foster/For the Sun-Times

County Board President Toni Preckwinkle with members of her election team and her petition in line for the first day of the filing period for Municipal Elections, Monday, November 19th, 2018. | James Foster/For the Sun-Times

So far, there are 18 candidates who have announced they are running for mayor.

To get on the mayoral ballot, candidates must submit at least 12,500 signatures from registered voters, although multiples of that number are typically gathered and filed to fend off any challenges to the legitimacy of signatures.

Preckwinkle and Wilson each estimated they’d gathered 60,000 signatures. Vallas said he had about 50,000. And Joyce put his signature count around 30,000.

Election officials certify receipt of a petition for mayor on the first day of the filing period for Municipal Elections, Monday, November 19th, 2018. | James Foster/For the Sun-Times

Election officials certify receipt of a petition for mayor on the first day of the filing period for Municipal Elections, Monday, November 19th, 2018. | James Foster/For the Sun-Times

If no mayoral candidate gets more than 50 percent of the vote in February — which is likely — the top two will head to a runoff on April 2.

Ald. Edward Burke (14th) summed up competition to his long held aldermanic seat with two words: “It’s America.”

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There’s an added incentive to showing up bright and early on the first day: candidates in line at 9 a.m. are eligible to be part of a lottery or the top spot on the ballot in their races. That top spot translates into extra votes, according to Chicago political lore.

14th Ward Alderman Edward M. Burke on the first day of the filing period for Municipal Elections, Monday, November 19th, 2018. | James Foster/For the Sun-Times

14th Ward Alderman Edward M. Burke on the first day of the filing period for Municipal Elections, Monday, November 19th, 2018. | James Foster/For the Sun-Times

Candidates have until Monday, Nov. 26 to file. Former president of the Chicago Police Board Lori Lightfoot, who was among a list of candidates already in the race prior to Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s bombshell announcement in September that he would not be seeking re-election, plans to submit her petitions on Nov. 26, her campaign said.

It’s been an atypical process — with many candidates declaring their candidacy just after Emanuel’s decision. Illinois Comptroller Susana Mendoza announced her run just last week but had been collecting signatures prior to her announcement. Mendoza’s campaign on Monday said they’re in the process of validating signatures but said the response has been “great.” The campaign said they will file “more than enough signatures to be on the ballot.”

Aldermen Nicholas Sposato and Howard Brookins Jr. in line on the first day of the filing period for Municipal Elections, Monday, November 19th, 2018. | James Foster/For the Sun-Times

Eight years ago — the last time the mayor’s office was up for grabs — six mayoral hopefuls filed on the first day of filing. When the dust settled and the shouting matches were over, 20 men and women had filed for mayor at the close of that filing period. But only six wound up on the ballot after challenges and candidate withdrawals.

Most announced candidates who did not file on Monday made it clear they plan to do so over the course of the next week.

Attorney Amara Enyia’s campaign on Monday sent out an email to supporters asking for help in counting petitions this week.

Former U.S. Commerce Secretary Bill Daley’s campaign said he planned to file on Tuesday.

Former Chicago Police Supt. and mayoral hopeful Garry McCarthy plans to submit his signatures, which are still being collected, later this week, spokesman John Davis said. “We have in excess of 50,000. We’re in good shape. We’re in great shape, in fact,” Davis said Monday.

About 20 candidates, including City Clerk incumbent Anna Valencia, hired election attorney Michael Kasper to shepherd them through the submittal process Monday.

Jeremiah Joyce Jr. on the first day of the filing period for Municipal Elections, Monday, November 19th, 2018. | James Foster/For the Sun-Times

Jeremiah Joyce Jr. on the first day of the filing period for Municipal Elections, Monday, November 19th, 2018. | James Foster/For the Sun-Times

For a fee of few hundred bucks he’ll help make sure things go smoothly, Kasper said. Things get more expensive when challenges to the validity of voter signatures are filed, a process that can end up in court.

“This is checkers,” Kasper said. “That’s chess.”

Beginning shortly after signatures are turned in, they’ll be digitally scanned and made available for opponents to review and, if they choose, challenge.

And. Brian Hopkins (2nd) waits in line on the first day of the filing period for Municipal Elections, Monday, November 19th, 2018. | James Foster/For the Sun-Times

2And. Brian Hopkins (2nd) waits in line on the first day of the filing period for Municipal Elections, Monday, November 19th, 2018. | James Foster/For the Sun-Times

No candidates indicated they planned to file a challenge when questioned Monday, but if previous municipal elections are any indication of things to come, it will be a busy season of trying to bounce opponents from the ballot, said Board of Election Commissioners spokesman Jim Allen.

Mayoral candidates include Daley, Enyia, Joyce, Lightfoot, McCarthy, Preckwinkle, Wilson, Vallas, Cook County Circuit Court Clerk Dorothy Brown, Gery Chico, Mendoza, State Rep. La Shawn Ford, activist Ja’Mal Green, tech entrepreneur Neal Sales-Griffin, television producer William Kelly, two-time aldermanic candidate John Kozlar, former Ald. Bob Fioretti and businessman William “Dock” Walls.