Wednesday, February 25, 2015

When it came to mayor, did two-thirds of city's electorate channel their inner Rhett Butler and "not give a damn?"

As I write this late Tuesday, it seems that Mayor Rahm Emanuel failed to take a majority of the ballots cast in Chicago's municipal election.

He clearly got more votes than any other individual candidate. But his vote total came to about 46 percent early in the evening, and eventually dropped to 45 percent by night's end.

IT SEEMS THAT the mayor will have to face off one-on-one against Cook County Commissioner Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, who came in second in the mayoral race taking 34 percent of the vote.

The other candidates all came in far lower than that, although there are some political observers who are crediting black businessman Willie Wilson (11 percent) with costing Emanuel an outright victory. The assumption being that most of those people wouldn’t have voted for anybody – which means Emanuel’s vote total would have surpassed the “50 percent plus One” standard that would have been instant victory.

I have to admit that these figures don’t particularly interest me. The one that catches my attention is the fact that it seems voter turnout in this mayoral election reached a record low.

Lower than the 33.08 percent that was reached in 2007 when Richard M. Daley ran for his final term in office against opposition to whom even the label “token” would be an overstatement.

THE EARLY ESTIMATES was that about 31 or 32 percent of all the registered voters in Chicago bothered to use an early voter facility or show up at a polling place on Election Day.

That makes about 68 percent of the would-be voters (I’m not counting city residents who are too lazy to even register) who couldn’t be bothered to cast ballots.

For all those people who are waking up Wednesday with a disgusted mood because of how the election turned out (either because you’re establishment enough that you wanted Emanuel re-elected, or you’re contrarian enough to think that any of the mayoral challengers were going to do better than they did), I’d have to say “stifle” (the Archie Bunker in me comes out at times like this).

So many of you couldn’t be bothered to take a stance.

IF ANYTHING, IT would appear that candidate William “Dock” Walls  (a.k.a., "Mr. 3 percent") may have been correct in making his concession statement, while also saying he has no intention of making a fourth bid for mayor come the 2019 elections (I’m skeptical of that statement).

“You can’t save people who aren’t ready to be saved,” Walls told those who gathered for his Election Night event. It’s up to the electorate to act. If they fail to do so, then complaints truly aren’t worth hearing.

Talk truly can be cheap!

I must admit to finding one benefit to the fact that so many people didn’t bother to vote – counting votes really went by quickly.

I SPENT MY time watching election results on a CLTV/WGN-TV combo Tuesday night, and that 46-34 percent tally for Emanuel/Garcia was reached by 7:50 p.m., with ballots in 71 percent of precincts citywide having been counted by 8 p.m.

Many aldermen already knew by that point that they had been re-elected, while Rey Colon of the 35th Ward knew he lost to Carlos Ramirez-Sosa.

Emanuel had Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., introduce his Election Night speech at about 9:30 a.m., partly in Spanish. Which I suspect was meant to thwart any possibly rhetoric about how this was a Latino electoral victory to have a Chuy vs. Rahm run-off.

Emanuel, the man once despised by Latino activists and Gutierrez himself for the way he as White House chief of staff discouraged President Barack Obama from taking on immigration reform as a priority, now wants us to think he loves Latinos.

I CAN’T EVER recall an election cycle where it was so obvious so early how things would turn out. Considering there were precincts on the North lakefront and Northwest sides of the city that remained open late because of technical problems, we literally had some people still casting ballots when things were already settled.

Yet for many Chicagoans, it probably didn’t matter. I’m sure they had other issues they considered much more interesting than a mayoral campaign. They may claim the weather insurmountable – temperatures expected to drop as low as 1 degree below zero on Wednesday.

Which is when the Chuy vs. Rahm brawl that culminates April 7 begins!


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