No candy kisses for candidates at this Valentine’s Day party

17 Feb

Carol Moseley Braun arrived late; the former Illinois Senator was rushed through a side door only seconds before broadcast. (Photo by Len Kody)

By Len Kody and Paige Wagenknecht

On Valentine’s Day, flings get serious. The four leading mayoral candidates appeared at WTTW studios on that day this week to take part in a forum that could possibly set the pace for this final, decisive week of the campaign for the serious decision to be made by Chicago voters.

The forum’s moderator, Carol Marin, was all business in her horn-rimmed glasses and dark jacket, and made it clear to the candidates that time for flirting was over.

“Tonight we do not want anecdotes or campaign rhetoric or filibusters,” Marin told them. “We want cold, hard specific information about what they will do in City Hall.”

Chicagoans, who experienced the beginning and end of Mayor Daley’s administration, know all-too-well that electing a mayor in this city is a long term-commitment, and they shouldn’t just rush into a new relationship without knowing the candidates’ positions inside and out.

The first question of the night went to Rahm Emanuel: “Mr. Emanuel, must the pensions of current city workers, going forward, be reduced in order to deal with the deficit?”

Emanuel spoke forthrightly about a need for “change” and “honest discussion,” but stopped short before giving a definitive answer to the difficult question, not wanting to spoil the early moods of voters.

While, in her approach to city pensions and the budget issue, Carol Moseley Braun employed a tactic common to many dysfunctional relationships—she denied there even was a problem.

Braun attributed the ominous data recently released by the Civic Federation to a “demographic bubble,” and downplayed the necessity for big cuts to worker benefits.

An interesting moment came when Miguel del Valle tried to turn the Chicago Tea Party’s recent (and unwelcome) endorsement of Gery Chico for mayor into a scarlet letter.

“Happy Valentine’s Day, Miguel,” Chico quipped back. He was visibly embarrassed.

As common in elections as it is in relationships, talk of the candidates’ pasts consumed a portion or the forum, because the voters should know who they are about to get into bed with. No new issues were raised.

A large turnover in seats may hurt the mayor’s relationship with the City Council, regardless of which of the four candidates wins the election. Del Valle said the relationship between 14th Ward Ald. Ed Burke and the rest of City Council is particularly tumultuous, while Chico expressed a crush on the Chairman of the Finance Committee.

One candidate didn’t want this wooing of voters’ hearts to end, and hopes to see a runoff in April.

“This has been such a shortened campaign season,” Chico said. “I think the city desperately needs a runoff to allow more time for us to really delve into these complicated issues that are affecting everyone in the neighborhoods.”

Emanuel, who significantly leads the others in the polls, is fine with ending the romancing of voters on Feb.22.

“I think the voters will decide if we have a runoff,” he said. “The key thing is everyone as individuals, with or without a runoff, need to help serve our city because we have a lot of challenges.”

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