Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Flores is out, before he’s in. Does Chico advance in influence among Latinos?

When all is said and done, I fully expect the pool of candidates for Chicago mayor in next year’s municipal elections to consist of four or five serious candidates (defined here as someone who might get 20 percent support) and two or three stubborn hold-outs who will remain in the running to the end even though everybody realizes they will only get 1 percent voter support.

He's outta dere
There will be an ebb and flow of people in and out of the election process between now and early next year when the ballot solidifies.

SO IN THAT sense, it really isn’t any big deal that Manny Flores, a former alderman who now serves on the Illinois Commerce Commission, is among the people who is flowing out of the process.

Although there have been people organizing themselves in recent weeks to circulate the nominating petitions needed to get Flores on the mayoral election ballot, the candidate himself is backing away.

On Monday, he formally gave his endorsement (for what it is worth) to the mayoral campaign of Gery Chico – the former Chicago Public Schools executive who paired up with Paul Vallas back in the 1990s to achieve some significant improvements and who also was a chief of staff (one of many) under Mayor Richard M. Daley.

Chico has the resume (currently, he is in charge of the City Colleges of Chicago system) that could make his campaign stand out. But it remains to be seen whether he has the personality that can inspire people to take him seriously and want him to be in charge. He didn’t back in 2004 when he tried running for U.S. Senate, not even coming close to beating eventual winner Barack Obama in that year’s Democratic primary.

The experienced one?
IN SHORT, WE need to find out if Chico is candidate material, or if he’s the kind of guy that the eventual election winner hires to run things for him. Is he a candidate, or is he staff?

But the fact that Chico got Flores’ backing will help him for now in terms of trying to stand out from the pack of candidates, which includes a whole batch of people who claim they’re still trying to figure out what they want to do – even though it probably would take a regiment of armed soldiers to stop them from running for mayor come next year.

The problem with trying to predict who is leading the mayoral election at this point (aside from the fact that we haven’t even got past the Nov. 2 elections for Illinois state government posts) is that there are so many fronts.

The serious one?
The return of Rahm Emanuel to Chicago. Attempts by many aldermen who think they are all-significant. Black political officials trying to put together a unified front behind a single candidate, and will Rev. James Meeks run regardless of what those officials say. Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart being politically ambitious enough to want to move up to a city government position. Will Latinos be able to have a serious candidate, or will they merely provide a victory margin for whoever wins?

IT IS THAT last potential storyline that Chico fits into for now. With Flores out of the running, there is one fewer candidate, and I’m sure Chico will claim this means he’s now the Latino frontrunner.

Of course, among the other official candidates at this point is city Clerk Miguel del Valle, and I would be willing to bet any amount of money that Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., will get into this campaign cycle once he is officially re-elected to Congress on Nov. 2 for another two-year term.

He has nothing to lose politically by running, and his ego is as big as any other politico. He won’t be able to resist.

Which also means this may well turn into at least a three-way battle to try to have a Latino official among the top two vote-getters in the initial election next year. Once it comes down to a two-person runoff, all the rules change.

FOR NOW, WE could easily see del Valle try to portray himself as the soft-spoken professional who can actually get things done, compared to Chico’s extensive education administrative experience (although I wonder if his past ties to Vallas do him in) and Gutierrez’ loud-mouthed rants about how he boldly (and all alone) has fought for serious reform of the nation’s immigration laws.

The outspoken one?
If it reads like I am being disparaging of Gutierrez, keep in mind that I fully realize that the most outspoken are usually the ones who get the public attention. I’m sure there are many who will think of Latino candidates in this campaign as being Gutierrez, and a few other nameless types.

Except that Chico wants to believe that getting Flores’ background is one step toward putting his name out there as an equal, of sorts. Because the last thing any Latino activists have any intent to do is follow the lead of the black activists who say they want a unified front and a single black candidate. It is because the Latino activists know full well that none of the candidates would be willing to go along with that.

Moments like this (no incumbent running for mayor) come along once in a political lifetime, which makes them too rare for political people to worry about high-minded ideals.


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