There’s never been much doubt that Susana Mendoza would jump into the crowded race to replace Mayor Rahm Emanuel as soon as she was safely re-elected as state comptroller.
But what little doubt there was disappeared on Friday.
WBEZ-FM Radio got a hold of a video of Mendoza declaring her candidacy for mayor.
Reporter Dan Mihalopoulos tweeted a short clip of the video where Mendoza, dressed in a grayish-green cable sweater, is saying, “I’m Susana Mendoza and I’m running for mayor of Chicago. And I ask you to join me on this journey together.”
The premature release comes at a difficult time for Mendoza. It gives her Republican opponent for state comptroller Darlene Senger more ammunition to say Mendoza has one foot out the door.
“This is the height of arrogance and hypocrisy to be running for two offices at the same time,” Senger said.
Gov. Bruce Rauner — a frequent target of Mendoza — also wasted no time skewering Mendoza over the news.
“Another member of the Madigan Machine proves they care more about political gain than the people,” the governor tweeted. “It’s more corruption hurting our state. It’s now clear that Susana Mendoza is running for Chicago Mayor and she should drop off the ballot for State Comptroller immediately.”
Mendoza struggled to address the leak and stay focused on Tuesday.
“I am focused on the Nov. 6 election because too much is at stake for the people of Illinois,” Mendoza, whose supporters have been circulating mayoral nominating petitions on her behalf for weeks, was quoted as saying in an emailed statement.
“I’m considering a run for another office and have taken steps to prepare for that should I choose to move forward but I have not made any formal decisions.”
Eric Adelstein, Mendoza’s political consultant, stepped up to take the blame for the mayoral video.
“We were filming her comptroller ads and I suggested that, while she hasn’t made up her mind on the mayor’s race, she should record some lines so we had them and could move quickly if she decides ultimately to run. It’s a tight time-frame,” Adelstein said, noting the Nov. 28 mayoral filing deadline.
“She hasn’t made up her mind. One-hundred percent. l hope she runs … because the city could really use her energy, her drive and her vision. … But, maybe I jumped the gun by urging her to go out. … People should be focused on Tuesday.”
During a recent appearance before the Chicago Tribune’s editorial board, Mendoza found a clever way around her one-foot-out-the-door dilemma.
She promised to serve out her four-year term as comptroller, if Rauner is re-elected to a second term.
Democrat J.B. Pritzker is the overwhelming favorite to defeat Rauner on Tuesday.
Rauner, Senger and the Illinois Republican Party demanded Mendoza quit the comptroller race.
“Susana Mendoza is a liar,” said Travis Sterling, executive director of the Illinois GOP. “She said she would respect voters by focusing on the Comptroller’s race, but it’s clear that she only cares about her own ambition and climbing up the ladder. Mendoza has been misleading the people of Illinois, asking for their vote with no intention of serving her term. She should immediately drop off the ballot for Comptroller.”
Mendoza has not been kind to others running in two races.
Years ago, then-Ald. Sandi Jackson (7th) filed for both re-election to her aldermanic seat and for city clerk on the same day.
Jackson said then she planned to talk about it with her then-husband over Thanksgiving dinner, then drop one or the other of the two offices.
Both Sandi and her now-ex-husband Jesse Jackson Jr. were subsequently indicted, convicted and imprisoned on federal corruption charges.
Sandi Jackson’s double-filing was ridiculed by then-City Clerk Susana Mendoza.
“I filed for one office I’m really passionate about and that’s city clerk,” Mendoza said on that day.
Whenever Mendoza decides to formally enter the mayor’s race, she will become the second Hispanic candidate and immediately become a potential frontrunner.
She is 25 years younger than County Board President Toni Preckwinkle and a proven vote-getter along the lakefront and among younger voters now dominating the political scene.
Mendoza also has an engaging personality that has been showcased for weeks in television commercials running in the Chicago market showing her playing soccer and talking about standing up to bullies.
Those same ads can easily be edited just slightly into commercials for her mayoral campaign.
Mendoza’s major political liability appears to be her close and longstanding political relationship with House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago). In the Legislature, Mendoza was a feisty ally of the powerful Southwest Side Democrat.
But, that was long before the speaker’s reputation took a political beating from Rauner and from the #MeToo sexual harassment scandal that has forced him to cut ties with several high-ranking members of his own staff and political organization.
Mayoral candidate Bill Daley was quick to pounce on Mendoza.
Daley argued that the video shows how duplicitous Mendoza is.
“She’s been telling people for five weeks she’s not sure she’s gonna run. Publicly she’s been saying that. … But yet, they’re passing petitions. Somebody’s paying for petitioners. And she even does a video,” Daley said.
“Come on. Just be honest. Toni Preckwinkle was. Let’s begin to be more straight with the public. That’s why they don’t trust anyone in politics anymore. … I’ve been traveling throughout this city. The constant message I hear is, ‘Just be honest with us. Will you please?'”
Daley bristled when he was reminded that his own brother was re-elected as state’s attorney in 1988 and turned right around and ran for mayor in the special mayoral election in 1989.
“You love going back to 30 years ago. Give it up. Rich Daley did not make a video before he got re-elected after two terms as state’s attorney. He did not run around to people telling them he was running for mayor. That’s not true,” Bill Daley said.
“He [declared his candidacy for mayor] almost a month after his re-election after being state’s attorney for eight years.”