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Mayoral candidates make final push before Tuesday’s election

Voters cast their ballots at the Galewood Community United Church on the West Side during the Illinois Primary last year. | Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times

Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times file photo

Chicago’s mayoral candidates braced heavy winds to knock on doors, visit churches and speak to voters in their final push Sunday in what has become an unpredictable and seemingly endless race to Tuesday’s election.

With a whopping 14 candidates vying to lead the city — and polls showing differing results and a high number of undecided voters — the race is expected to be close. And the top two candidates will likely not even be known by Tuesday night.

Bill Daley, the top fundraiser in the race by more than $5 million, spent his day visiting churches and speaking with voters at Aurelio’s Pizza in the South Loop.

Daley said he’s run a “consistent” and “positive race.”

“Here’s who I am. Here’s what I’ve done. Here’s what I’ve laid out. I think we’ve laid out in this campaign more bold ideas than anyone else,” Daley said.

The mayoral run is the first political campaign for the former U.S. commerce secretary. And he said he wants voters who may not have liked his father or brother — both former mayors of Chicago — to give him a “fair chance.”

“To say I don’t want to vote for him because of whatever, the past, well then that’s fine. That’s your opinion,” Daley said. “But if you haven’t listened to what I’ve been trying to propose, what I’ve done, who I am and you just assume something like that, well that’s not a very informed voter.”

Mayoral candidate Toni Preckwinkle attended services at St. Stephen A.M.E. Church in Chicago, Sunday, Feb. 24, 2019. | Kevin Tanaka/For the Sun Times

Toni Preckwinkle, leaving the Founder’s Day celebration at St. Stephen A.M.E. Church on the West Side, called her experience running for mayor “tough.” But she said she’s grateful for the support she’s received.

The Cook County Board president, in part, pinned the number of likely undecided voters on the sheer number of candidates: “I think that the undecided voters are a reflection of that.”

“It’s been a tough one,” Preckwinkle said of her run. “But as I said, I’m looking forward to Tuesday with optimism.”

Lori Lightfoot spent Sunday knocking on doors in West Town and Hyde Park, among other neighborhoods. Lightfoot, the former Chicago Police Board head, was joined by U.S. Rep. Robin Kelly, D-Ill., and Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd) for part of her canvass.

“We believe that we’re really surging and that we have a real shot to get into a runoff. So we’re talking to our supporters to get out there and knocking on doors,” Lightfoot said. “Literally this is a game of inches at this point.”

Amara Enyia, who visited eight churches and participated in two rallies on Sunday, said her final message to voters is that she represents “change” and a “very strong vision for the city.”

“The fact that so many people in the city are undecided speaks to the reality that many are ready for change. That they are not voting with the status quo or the establishment, and that’s regardless of how much money you’ve spent on TV or commercials,” Enyia said.

Mayoral contender Paul Vallas speaks at a South Side church Sunday, Feb. 24, 2019 | Photo by Tina Sfondeles

At the Progressive Baptist Church, one of five church visits for Paul Vallas, the former Chicago Public Schools CEO was quizzed about his religion, his hopes for the city and his plans for education and economic stability. He spoke of a decline in the middle class and life expectancy differences based on race and where Chicagoans live.

“We live in a city that has neglected, in effect, 80 percent of the city; and it’s a tale of two cities, a small thriving, growing dynamic city, and a much larger city that has gone through decades of not only lack of investment, but disinvestment,” Vallas said.

Former Chicago Board of Education head Gery Chico said he canvassed 15 communities in a day and a half, including the South Loop, Beverly, Little Village, Mount Greenwood, Jefferson Park and others.

Chico said he only came across “a handful” of undecided voters, adding that, “I don’t think people are as confused as we might think.” Mostly, he said he’s been encouraging people who haven’t already voted to make their way to the polls while selling himself as the candidate with the most experience, a vision and a “lifetime as a Chicagoan.”

“I think we’re surging just at the right time,” Chico said.

Susana Mendoza, Illinois comptroller and mayoral candidate, talks to patrons during a campaign event at the Jimenez Restaurant, located at Belmont Central neighborhood in Chicago, on Feb. 24, 2019.| Victor Hilitski/For the Sun-Times

State Comptroller Susana Mendoza made an afternoon stop at Jimenez Restaurant, where she made a point of chatting with every person she could find. Earlier, she said she did the same at grocery stores and other restaurants.

“If they’re breathing, I’m talking to them,” Mendoza said.

Mendoza said she’d only found a few undecided voters as she combed the city, but she said she gave each one the opportunity to ask her “anything” that would help them make up their minds.

“People have been pretty honest,” she said.

Mayoral candidate Garry McCarthy hit the campaign trail again Sunday, Feb. 24. | Photo by Jon Seidel

Former Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy joined campaign volunteers in the cold outside the Chicago Public Library’s Roden branch in Norwood Park early Sunday afternoon. He said he’d been “bouncing around and putting up signs and stopping and talking and meeting people” since 10 a.m.

“We know that this thing is completely up for grabs,” McCarthy said, “and we’re chasing it just like everybody else, and we feel really good about our chances.”

The “key component” in the race, McCarthy said, is that “we’ve been doing this for a year” while “a lot of people have been doing it for four months, when Rahm dropped out.”

Lawyer Jerry Joyce spent Sunday at two charity events — the “Get Behind the Vest” pancake breakfast in Beverly and a Polar Plunge fundraiser in Bridgeport. Other members of the crowded mayoral field include Bob Fioretti, La Shawn Ford, John Kozlar and Neal Sales-Griffin.

Businessman Willie Wilson said Sunday night he’d lost track of all the stops he’s made as the campaign nears its end. But he said he had more rallies planned, as well as trips on the L to shake voters’ hands.

Wilson said he’s continued to push a program that includes “no taxes” and “equal opportunity” from which “no community will be left out.”

He also offered a bold prediction.

“I think I’m going to win it … without any runoff,” Wilson said.