Friday, January 16, 2015

Hizzoner hopefuls to debate each other

Defining a debate can be tricky. But we’re approaching that point in the mayoral campaign cycle in which the five people with desires to work on the Fifth Floor of City Hall will actually face off – trying to show the public that they’re not inept and praying that their opponents commit a major gaffe that erases their chances of electoral victory.

By tricky, it becomes important to consider whether an alleged debate actually includes the significant candidates, or is merely a chance for a lone candidate to show themselves off without any pesky opposition to challenge them.

I BRING UP this point because the Center for Working Class Studies at the University of Illinois – Chicago is having a “debate” on Friday.

Yet the only two candidates who are expected to show up are Cook County Commissioner Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, D-Chicago, and 2nd Ward Alderman Robert Fioretti.

Which means the people who bother to watch the event on Chicago Access Network will have a chance to see if one of the two can create the perception of themselves as the legitimate challenger to Mayor Rahm Emanuel, and the image of the other as a political bumpkin in over his head.

Emanuel himself will not be there. Neither will Willie Wilson, who is hoping that the millions of his own money he plans to spend on his campaign will help him be so dominant among African-American voters that both Fioretti and Garcia wind up becoming the bumpkins who don’t deserve to be taken seriously come the Feb. 24 municipal elections.

FOR THE RECORD, Emanuel’s campaign has said he is participating in five debates – although only two of those are traditional debate formats where candidates face questions and rigidly-timed periods in which to answer them.

Those debates will be the League of Women Voters event to be held Feb. 5 and a Feb. 10 event by the Chicago Urban League.

Other events that could wind up having all the major mayoral hopefuls include a Feb. 4 broadcast of “Chicago Tonight” on WTTW-TV, and appearances before the editorial boards of the Chicago Tribune and Chicago Sun-Times.

Admittedly, those newspapers likely will put video of those interviews on their websites for political geeks to ponder over. But their real purpose is to provide the quotes and other information that the newspapers will use when preparing their editorials in mid-to-late February about how enthusiastically they wind up backing the re-election of Rahm Emanuel.

DOES ANYBODY DOUBT that the two major newspapers will take such a stance? Particularly when one regards just how enthusiastic they were in offering their official support for Bruce Rauner to replace Pat Quinn as governor in last year’s statewide election cycle.

I’m likely to try to watch all of these events in some form or another, even though all they usually wind up doing is reinforcing the beliefs of the hard-core supporters of each candidate.

The people who want Anybody But Rahm probably already have the talking points drafted in their minds about how inept Emanuel will be during the upcoming debates.

For all I know, they’re probably also going to claim he is behaving in a cowardly manner by not showing up on Friday and at other events being sponsored by organizations that wish they could get the public attention that is derived from sponsoring a political debate.

I NOTICED THAT Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis told the Chicago Sun-Times on Thursday how Garcia will overcome his “mild-mannered sweetheart” temperament to ravage Rahm’s reputation and make him out to be completely inept at representing the needs of the “average” Chicagoan.

I’m sure the Emanuel backers are ready to claim how all the other candidates don’t have what it takes to address the diverse set of problems that confront Chicago and other urban areas in the United States.

And as for Wilson, the man who already is attracting derision for the fact that responded to a Chicago Tribune candidate questionnaire by saying on many issues that he can’t develop specific solutions until after he is put into office. We’re supposed to trust that he’ll figure things out!

I’m sure that Wilson’s campaign guru, outspoken former alderman and state senator Rickey “Hollywood” Hendon, is counting on reaching out to voters who despise all the other mayoral candidates that they won’t care what Wilson actually says during a debate.


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