Follow the money: Is the Chicago mayoral race over?

18 Feb

By Jennifer Schanz

As the race to replace grows closer, Chicago’s mayoral candidates are pulling out all tricks to ensure that a certain someone doesn’t get the office on City Hall’s fifth floor without a fight.

But if Rahm Emanuel can muster 50 percent of the votes on Feb. 22, runoff dreams are dead, and we’ve got a new mayor. From the moment “I will not seek a seventh term” left Mayor Daley’s lips, it is obvious the-then White House Chief of Staff was strategizing his game plan.

Within months of being back in Chicago, Rahm Emanuel was sitting on millions, piling up celebrity endorsements and refusing to let you get through your morning commute without seeing him on an El platform.

When you said Chicago mayoral election, it could be summed up in one word: Rahm.

Let’s talk figures. Emanuel towers over his competitors with $11.78 million in campaign cash, $1.4 million of which was raised within the final 10 days of the year. Not bad for a long week’s worth of fundraising.

Among the big check writers are Donald Trump, Steven Spielberg, Apple CEO Steve Jobs, music mogul David Geffen, Morningstar CEO Joe Mansueto, Citadel Investment Group CEO Kenneth C. Griffin, who joined the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, Democratic lobbying firm Pickering & Associates and several other big names and big companies that dug deep into their pockets for Obama’s former front man.

In comparison, the anti-Rahm’s are working with chump change. Leading the pack is former Mayor Daley staff chief Gery Chico, who has collected a mere $2.36 million. Chico’s campaign cash can be traced to notable Chicago businesses, many of which are tied to his law firm, Chico & Nunes, a registered City Hall lobbyist for more than 40 companies.

Chico has landed endorsements from several labor organizations, including the Chicago Police Sergeants’ Association and the Chicago Firefighters Union Local 2. He is also be backed by U.S. Representative Louis Gutierrez, Alderman-of-steel Ed Burke, the Personal PAC, and the Cook County Democratic Women to name a few, but he’s not standing very tall next to Emanuel’s presidential support.

I’m speaking of course of former president Bill Clinton, who made a trip to Chicago in late January to rally for the former White House Chief of Staff.  And let’s not forget the Emanuel praise we hear from Barack Obama every time a “Chicago for Rahm” ad plays.

Or the fact that Hollywood icon Jennifer Hudson held a fundraising event for the candidate, and funnyman Andy Samberg took to greeting Chicagoans on the El alongside the guy he has made a habit of impersonating on Saturday Night Live.

Gery Chico is no rookie—like Rahm, he is seasoned in the game of politics and campaigning, and has built substantial relationships with important people in the city. But when it comes down to it, Chicago politics is determined by the weight of the treasure chest, and Rahm’s weighing in far above the rest.

Whether you love or loathe him, forget April, and start refurnishing the mayor’s office.

(This is an opinion piece by DePolitics1011 reporter Jennifer Schanz.)

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