Buckle up, Chicago.
There is a wild ride ahead in the race to replace Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who decided not to seek a third term.
The latest contender is Bill Daley, the son and brother of Chicago mayors, whose candidacy starts at 12:01 a.m. on Monday, when he makes it official.
Some start as varsity players, others are JV. (My thoughts on that are below.)
A candidate needs more than 50 percent of the vote to win the nonpartisan February mayoral election. If not, a runoff between the top two will be in April.
A plurality contest is seductive.
The more people in the race means a lower number of votes are needed to secure the top two spots. With a crowded field, that could be only 20 percent plus of the ballots.
There is no front-runner or obvious successor as the week kicks off with a Daley media blitz.
A different Daley
Daley opens his mayoral race through a series of 15 one-on-one interviews with news outlets, with embargoed tapings starting Friday and going through the weekend and Monday.
He’s avoiding a potentially chaotic press conference by using the less risky individual interview strategy. He’ll own Chicago political news on Monday. The free media exposure will establish him as a viable contender in one day.
Daley, a chief of staff to former President Barack Obama, a Commerce Secretary under former President Bill Clinton and before that Clinton’s point man on NAFTA, was also the presidential campaign chair for Al Gore. He quit the 2014 governor’s race after he jumped into the primary.
Is Daley’s course set in stone this time?
Daley is building a campaign team. Peter Cunningham is overseeing his communications. Cunningham worked for Arne Duncan when he was Education Secretary and Chicago Public Schools chief, and former Mayor Richard M. Daley.
Greg Goldner is advising Daley’s 2019 bid. He managed the 2003 re-election for Daley the second time he ran and Emanuel’s first congressional race.
While Cook County Commissioner Jesus “Chuy” Garcia is mulling a run, Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., kicked off a draft drive last Wednesday; nominating petitions for him started circulating on Saturday.
Some 12,500 valid signatures must be collected by Nov. 26. A voter is supposed to sign only one petition.
The Nov. 6 factor
Major potential candidates on the Nov. 6 ballot have a reason to be coy until after the election. They want to take one election at time, though Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle has no opponent. Garcia and Rep. Mike Quigley are poised to win congressional seats.
Illinois Comptroller Susana Mendoza is the only one with a viable rival, Republican Darlene Senger, and she doesn’t want to do anything to put her seat in play.
If Bruce Rauner wins in November
By controlling the purse strings, Mendoza has been able to lead the resistance to Gov. Bruce Rauner. If Republican Rauner holds off Democrat J.B. Pritzker and Mendoza also wins re-election, I guarantee you Mendoza does not run for mayor.
That’s because Rauner has the power to appoint her replacement.
The Michael Sacks play
Mega-rich Michael Sacks, the chairman and CEO of GCM Grosvenor, an Emanuel buddy, big philanthropist and political donor who is mulling a run, is the only one in the field with the ability to self-fund a multimillion-dollar campaign.
Though little known, Sacks has the money to quickly build a massive campaign and grow name ID with paid ads on TV and digital plays.
A Sacks political adviser – who spoke on the condition of remaining nameless – told me Sunday, “Unlike others who have immediately jumped into the race, he is very focused on policy and seems most to want to ensure that progress at CPS (Chicago Public Schools), (City) Community Colleges, in neighborhood economic development and in corporate recruitment are not reversed by any candidate.
“He’s spending all of his energy now helping to build a unifying agenda that makes progress on what has been achieved but continues to tackle those problems for the next four years.”
So will Sacks spend his millions?
The adviser told me, “If history is a guide, he will certainly spend money to drive and protect that agenda. And if he sees a candidate emerge who wants to divide the city, he will absolutely engage.”
Lori Lightfoot latest
Lori Lightfoot, who jumped in the race before Emanuel’s surprise decision, was in Washington, D.C., last week, prospecting and hauling in $20,000 from two fundraising events, including one at Mayer Brown, her former law firm. That’s according to a campaign spokesman who did not want a name used.
Lightfoot has talked to Valerie Jarrett, the former Obama senior adviser who, while not running, wants to endorse. I’ve learned that other players have reached out to Jarrett.
Sweet’s varsity list
Former police chief Garry McCarthy
Former CPS chief Paul Vallas
Attorney Gery Chico
City Treasurer Kurt Summers