Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Emanuel Ruling Opens Door for Braun, Chico - Hotline On Call

From National Journal

January 24, 2011 | 4:01 PM
Monday's appellate court decision to remove Rahm Emanuel from the ballot in the Chicago mayoral election could turn what looked like an easy victory for Emanuel into a wide-open contest..

Emanuel plans to appeal the ruling to the Illinois Supreme Court and, if the court finds in his favor, he will remain the clear frontrunner to succeed longtime Mayor Richard Daley. A Chicago Tribune poll of likely voters conducted earlier this month showed Emanuel leading the race by a wide margin with the support of 44 percent of voters - outpacing his nearest rival, former Sen. Carol Moseley Braun, by more than 20 points. The poll results - combined with his huge fundraising advantage -- led some to speculate that Emanuel might have an outside chance of garnering the more than 50 percent of the vote necessary to avoid a run-off.
But today's ruling has cast a cloud of uncertainty over the race.

"If he's off the ballot, then I think there is absolutely going to be a run-off," said Woods Bowman, a DePaul University political science professor and former Illinois state representative.

The two most likely candidates to reach the runoff -- if Emanuel is out of the race -- are Braun and former Chicago Public Schools President Gery Chico. Braun, who finished second in the Tribune poll with 21 percent, has been splitting the support of African-American voters with Emanuel. Each candidate won about 40 percent of black voters in that survey. If Emanuel is off the ballot, Braun should win the vast majority of support from the African-American community, according to local experts.

But Chico has even more to gain from today's ruling in the immediate future, said Chicago political consultant Eric Adelstein. Chico finished third overall in the Tribune poll and is the leading Hispanic candidate in the race. But Emanuel was carrying a plurality of the Hispanic vote in the survey with 30 percent, with the rest of that bloc divided between Chico and City Clerk Miguel del Valle, who most experts give little chance in the race.

"It's likely to be Braun and Chico," said Dick Simpson, a former alderman and the head of the political science department at the University of Illinois Chicago.

Under that scenario, the key question would be who wins the support of white voters, among whom Emanuel had enjoyed a commanding lead. If the Tribune poll is any guide, Chico has a huge advantage over Braun in this demographic. He finished second to Emanuel among whites with 25 percent, while Braun received just 7 percent of support among that group. Perhaps even more troubling for Braun, half of white voters view her unfavorably, according to the poll.

And Chico has other factors working in his favor. "He has more money and a heavier ad campaign," Simpson said.

Emanuel's absence should move Chico from third to second and, at the least, earn him a likely spot in the runoff. With del Valle out of the race, Chico would have a near monopoly on the Hispanic vote and more support among white voters than Braun.

But Braun would still remain formidable in the hypothetical run-off, as the size of the Black electorate in Chicago is significantly larger than the Hispanic electorate. With a month left before the Feb. 22 election, Braun would just need to carve out a moderate base of support among white voters to push herself ahead of Chicago.

"Any candidate needs to reach beyond their own racial base to be mayor of the city of Chicago," Simpson said.

And Adelstein added that even if the Illinois Supreme Court upholds the appellate court's ruling, it's unclear whether Emanuel might be able to wage a write-in campaign.

"As we saw in Alaska this year," Adelstein said, "somebody who has very high name recognition and the money to run a campaign can succeed as a write-in candidate."

Rahm also has the funds to wage a write-in bid.

"Rahm's got $11 million," said Chicago political strategist Thom Serafin. "You can do a lot with $11 million. Rahm's never been one to shrink from any kind of effort. If he indeed wanted to launch a write-in ballot, he'd be a formidable candidate."

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