Thursday, February 19, 2015

Regarding mayor, does anyone care?

I have sensed for quite a while that this year’s mayoral election cycle isn’t exactly getting the people of Chicago all worked up into a political frenzy.

Based on figures from the Chicago Board of Elections, it would seem my observation isn’t that far off – even though I have heard from some diehard backers of the mayoral challengers who insist that contempt felt for Mayor Rahm Emanuel is going to turn out the masses to vote against him!

BUT THE FIGURES reported by the city elections board indicate the number of people who have bothered thus far to show up at polling places across the city for early voting is barely over half the total number who voted early in the 2011 municipal elections for mayor.

Admittedly, there are still a few days left for people to cast ballots in advance of Tuesday’s Election Day. But not that many.

My guess is that 2015 will go into the local history books as a record low for voter turnout. The reality of electoral politics is that when few people bother to vote, the establishment candidate (meaning Emanuel) winds up winning.

He’s got the campaign cash to ensure that voter turnout efforts find the kind of people who don’t have hang-ups about his first four years as mayor AND get them to actually show up to vote.

IT SHOULD ALSO be noted that the 2014 election cycle for governor had record-high numbers of people who used early voting centers, but then produced merely an average voter turnout overall because the number of people who bothered to show up at polling places was pathetic.

Those who cared enough to vote have already bothered to do so. This isn’t exactly a repeat of 1983 when record numbers of newly-registered black voters turned out to put Harold Washington in Hizzoner’s office.

Although it’s interesting to read that mayoral hopeful Willie Wilson is claiming to have polls of his own that differ from all the others because he says they’re ignoring large numbers of black voters who are all peeved by Emanuel’s actions.

But even his own poll shows him finishing in third place – which would still make him a “loser” since only the top two vote-getters advance to a run-off election in the event Emanuel only gets 49.99999 percent (or less) of the vote.

WHAT WE HAVE is an election cycle in which apathy rules. The few wards where there are significant numbers of early voters (according to the elections board) are the ones in which there are competitive aldermanic races.

In the one ward I’m paying particular attention to (the 10th, down on the city’s Southeast Side – I was born there and have relatives who still live there), it’s probably more significant that candidate Susan Sadlowski Garza is backing Jesus “Chuy” Garcia for mayor, rather than that he’s supporting the former Chicago Teachers Union official for alderman.

Even she may wind up splitting the support of opponents to incumbent Alderman John Pope with the five other challengers – thereby making it possible for Pope to gain a fifth term in the City Council through the same apathy that could keep Emanuel as mayor.

People are resorting to whatever tactics they can conceive of to try to stir up interest amongst the apathetic.

WHICH PROBABLY BEST explains the rant that Garcia engaged in earlier this week – saying the teachers union will go on strike again IF Emanuel is re-elected as mayor. Or the fact that Wilson put out a statement Wednesday saying he wants some direct face time with President Barack Obama, who will be in Chicago on Thursday to back Emanuel AND tout the new Pullman National Park.

Does this mean we need Chuy in order to ensure the teachers don’t walk off the job next fall and cause mass aggravation for parents of children whose daily routines would be disrupted by such a strike?

Or is it really just about reminding us of the fact that Emanuel’s tough talk provoked the teachers union into a week-long strike back in 2012 – and that some of the union officials have long memories and are just as capable of carrying a grudge as is the mayor?

Six more days until Election Day, and 41 more until the run-off – and then our collective migrane headache comes to an end. At least until the ongoing Hillary Clinton “will she or won’t she” kicks into high gear for 2016.


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