The Crusader Newspaper Group

Mayor Emanuel plays Chicago politics

Crusader Staff Report

Three political races involving prominent Black candidates in the March 2018 primary are beginning to take shape as Mayor Rahm Emanuel is suspected of engaging in Chicago-style politics to eliminate a big-name opponent in the 2019 mayoral campaign.

The deadline for filing petitions to appear on the March 20 ballot is Dec. 4, but candidates sprinted to Springfield before that, hoping to get their names in the top slot, hoping it will give them an edge over the other candidates.

The race to election day for many candidates seeking to secure or keep positions has exploded into a big battle with much at stake in the campaign for governor, Cook County Board president, attorney general and a host of other positions in local and state governments.

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle on Monday vowed to scrutinize her opponents’ petitions as she faces a tough reelection bid against her predecessor Todd Stroger and former Alderman Bob Fioretti. Preckwinkle faces a potential voter backlash after she implemented a controversial penny-per-ounce soda tax that angered retailers and consumers in Chicago. The outcry forced the president to repeal the tax and reopen a $200 million deficit. Preckwinkle was forced to lay off over 300 county employees to fill the hole.

Former State Rep. Ken Dunkin is reentering politics as a candidate for Illinois’ 5th District. Two years ago Dunkin, a 13-year political veteran, was ousted by rookie candidate Julianna Stratton in a closely watched, high stakes race that was viewed as a proxy war between Illinois Democratic Majority Speaker Michael Madigan and Gov. Bruce Rauner. Dunkin drew heavy criticism when he went against Madigan and the Democratic Party, and sided with Rauner by not voting on a crucial bill that would have given financial assistance to low-income mothers struggling with child care. Dunkin lost to Stratton in a landslide defeat in the 2016 primary. Dunkin has been out of the spotlight ever since. He got a break when Stratton accepted an invitation to run with gubernatorial candidate J.B. Pritzker as his lieutenant governor.

Amid all the action is Mayor Emanuel, who drew suspicions Monday, Nov. 27 when longtime Congressman Luis Gutierrez made a surprise move, announcing he will not seek reelection after serving 24 years in Washington. He immediately endorsed Cook County Commissioner Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, who decided to fill his seat instead of running against Emanuel in the 2019 mayoral race.

Garcia was widely viewed as Emanuel’s biggest threat for his seat. In the 2015 election, Garcia pushed Emanuel into a runoff despite being widely outspent. With the Laquan McDonald case still haunting Emanuel’s administration, many believe Garcia had a chance of defeating his rival the second time around. Now with Garcia out, there are no big name opponents to challenge Emanuel in the mayoral race.

Questions have been raised about whether Guiterrez’s decision and endorsement of Garcia was Emanuel’s plan all along. There are reports that Guiterrez was with the mayor for hours at City Hall on Monday. And with immigration issues and news of Puerto Rico’s struggle to recover from a natural disaster still lingering in the headlines, questions remain as to why Guiterrez would retire and stop championing these issues in Congress. There is talk of Guiterrez running for the presidency in 2020, but questions remain as to why he would decide not to run and leave Garcia with just one week to collect thousands of signatures before the Dec. 4 deadline.

According to the latest U.S. Census, Hispanics combined with Latinos are now the biggest minority group in Chicago.  Emanuel in the past year has championed Hispanic issues, perhaps for the Hispanic vote. In August, Emanuel filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Justice Department over its new requirements for sanctuary cities that want federal funding, to give notice when immigrants in the country illegally are about to be released from custody, and allow immigration agents access to local jails.


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