Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Could city Clerk campaign give us as intense an electoral battle as mayoral race?

It is unfortunate that everybody interested in Chicago’s electoral politics is going to focus their attention on the campaign for mayor, watching as the 20 candidates winnow their way down to the half-dozen or so individuals who deserve serious consideration.

MENDOZA: Return from Springfield?
Because after looking at the lists of candidates who used the past week to file their nominating petitions to try to get themselves on the ballot, I’m wondering if the city Clerk campaign is going to be the one that turns into the real political brawl.

AS THINGS TURN out, incumbent city Clerk Miguel del Valle is giving up the post in order to run a campaign for mayor. It leaves the post open, with seven individuals expressing interest in taking over the office that, for many people, IS city government.

Just about any time they have to deal with the city, they’re ultimately dealing with the clerk.

Most of the candidates waited until the final day to submit their nominating petitions. So Patricia Horton, who has served the past four years on the board of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District, will get the top ballot spot – which in theory could get her a couple percent of the vote from people who are totally clueless about the identity of any of the candidates.

What makes this campaign intriguing are the two women who waited until the final hour of Monday to submit their petitions – Alderman Sandi Jackson (7th Ward) and state Rep. Susana Mendoza, D-Chicago.

JACKSON, OF COURSE, hedged her bets by also filing nominating petitions to run again for alderman of her South Side ward, while Mendoza will remain as a state legislator (7,210 people voted for her earlier this month in her unopposed bid for another term at the Statehouse) if she is unsuccessful on Feb. 22.

Some are pointing out the fact that Jackson (who may decide in coming weeks to focus on being alderman rather than clerk) is facing a challenge for city clerk by Mersaydes Young, who is allied with Cook County Board member William Beavers (she works on his staff). Beavers used to be the alderman of Jackson’s ward, and this could be one of those spats over whether the Beavers clan or Jackson family is the local power broker.

HORTON: The "not Jackson" vote?
But I can’t help but notice Mendoza’s presence, since she is the candidate who has del Valle’s backing to be his successor as city Clerk. Not that I think many people are going to be swayed by that fact.

But in an election cycle where the Latino candidates for mayor are likely to cancel each other out, I’m wondering if those people with an interest in increased Latino political empowerment are going to wind up focusing their attention on supporting Mendoza’s bid for clerk over her six challengers.

MENDOZA HERSELF HAS been around the political scene for about 15 years. She once was an aide to former state Rep. (and alderman) Ray Frias, before eventually being convinced to run for an Illinois House seat on her own – representing the Pilsen neighborhood in Springfield since 2001.

Now, she’s going to run for a city-wide political post. Considering how the top three posts of city government (mayor, clerk and treasurer) in recent years have taken on an ethnic balance, I’m wondering how long until we hear the rhetoric that “clerk” has become the “Latino” post, and that there should be a strong turnout for Mendoza to get her elected.

On the other hand, I can envision many African-American voters being swayed to vote for the daughter-in-law of Rev. Jesse Jackson, while maintaining the appearance of the Jacksons as a local political power couple (with husband Jesse Jr. remaining in Congress for another term).

JACKSON: Is the surname all-powerful?
Then again, there are many African-American people who have developed their own reasons for despising the Jacksons – which could make Horton their candidate of choice.

SUPPOSE THIS CAMPAIGN does wind up having a “Latino vs. African-American” factor to it. How does that impact the other campaigns? I ask that because any serious attempt by the African-American mayoral hopefuls is going to have to appeal to portions of other ethnic groups in Chicago if it is to gain enough support to win city-wide. Could the clerk’s race wind up being a factor in cutting the potential crossover support for mayor?

You’d be correct in thinking that my point is that the city Clerk campaign is going to show us to what degree the non-white ethnic voters of Chicago should be thought of as unified. It also is going to show us once and for all that women are fully capable of playing the same political hardball as the men when it comes to Chicago-style politics.

I’m not about to predict who is going to come out on top on Feb. 22 – other than to say that I doubt we will get the concept of “city Clerk Goran Davidovac.” For all I know, this campaign may provide us with the need for a runoff election that will be as spirited as anything that gets produced for Chicago mayor.

It could wind up providing political observers with the real electoral fun come next April.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Susana Mendoza, should do well . She knows the ropes. that is how she won her first election If you want to know how. Read the book It happenned four years ago by Peter Zelchenko.
If Miguel Del Valle is supporting her he has a short memory. I should remember Cindy Sotos aldrmanic election against Jesse Granato.