With the number of Chicago mayoral candidates dwindling every week four peopleGery Chico, Miguel del Valle, Carol Moseley Braun and Rahm Emanuelhave emerged as front-runners in the race to replace Richard Daley. These four are vying for endorsements from all corners of Chicago, including the 48th Ward Democrats who held an endorsement meeting Jan. 9 at the Emanuel Congregation.
It was a packed house as Carol Ronen, former state senator and current 48th Ward Democratic committeewoman, welcomed everyone to the event. During her introduction she made a point to tell the audience that Emanuel Congregation is the home of the LGBT Jewish Community in Chicago and thanked Rabbi Michael Zedek for hosting the endorsement session at the temple. In her speech she mentioned the tragedy involving U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., the previous day and said that speech matters in public discourse before introducing Zedek, who also welcomed everyone.
Before the candidates spoke, Ronen laid out the ground rules while also noting that this was the second time they have had an endorsement session for political candidates. She said that each candidate would have 10 minutes to introduce themselves and lay out their plans for the city and then questions would be taken from the audience for ten additional minutes. To be eligible to ask questions attendees had to be voting members of the 48th Ward since they would be voting later on whom to endorse. In order to become a member of the 48th Ward Democrats a person had to have performed at least 20 hours of volunteering in the last calendar year and be a resident of the ward. Ronen added that candidates would only get an endorsement if at least 60 percent of the members present voted for them.
Ronen then introduced the luminaries who were present, former state Sen. Art Berman, outgoingin Ald. Mary Ann Smith, state Sen. Heather Steans, state Rep. Harry Osterman ( an aldermanic candidate ) and U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky before bringing up the first candidate, Chico.
Chico started by talking his Chicago Public School education and then laid out his past experience in a variety of city government posts. The issues that Chico chose to focus on were education, jobs, crime, a balanced budget and taxes. Like all the candidates that came after him he made no mention of social issues including LGBT issues. When the issue of the police came up he said that when Superintendent Jody Weis' contract is up he would appoint a new police chief from within the ranks to help boost morale. Chico also said he would eliminate the position of city clerk to help cut costs.
When Schakowsky came to the stage she got a standing ovation and then updated the crowd on the events in Arizona, telling the audience that Giffords was responding to non-verbal requests before introducing Emanuel. Emanuel said that his top priorities are education, crime and the economy including city finances. On education he said that responsibility has to be placed on the parents first and that he would provide incentives for parental involvement to alleviate the burden on the schools. In the area of economic development he talked about food deserts and the need to put grocery stores in those areas. He also commented that "I know my reputation and it was earned" and said "I am a middle child" to describe himself.
After a brief break ( when a number of attendees chose to leave the event ) the city clerk candidates spoke, with Patricia Horton up first and then Susana Mendoza who both laid out their plans for the office. When they were finished del Valle took to the podium. He started his speech by talking about blighted areas and the need for anchors in those areas including strong neighborhood schools and small businesses to elevate these areas of the city. He also called out the parking-meter deal that many in the city have complained about in the last year, and said accountability is an important component of his campaign.
Braun was the last mayoral candidate to speak and after telling the audience about her childhood in Chicago she reminded the audience of her record of accomplishments as an elected official. Education was the topic she chose to address first and then moved onto job creation in all neighborhoods and then talked about safety in the streets. Finally, city treasurer candidate Stephanie Neely took the microphone to lay out her previous record as city treasurer and tell the audience about her plans for the future should she be re-elected.
After all the ballots were counted, Emanuel emerged as the winner with 74 percent of the vote. Chico came in with 14 percent of the vote and del Valle had 10 percent of the vote. Braun came in last place with 2 percent of the vote. In the city clerk race Mendoza was endorsed, and Neely ( who is running against Elida Cruz ) was endorsed for city treasurer.