With Christmas fast approaching, Chicago's mayoral race is slowing down a bit. We track a few of the dynamics in this wrap-up piece.
It's been a busy week or so in Chicago's mayoral race.
Procedurally, the news coming out of the campaign in recent days has centered on the hearing that sets the stage to determine whether Rahm Emanuel will be allowed on the 2011 Chicago ballot. Topically, education and the City of Chicago's minority contracting programs have received plenty of attention as of late. In terms of the debate amongst the candidates, three forums were held last week, forcing the top contenders (save Emanuel) to talk about their ideas for Chicago and mix it up a bit before voters.
For the Emanuel camp, the residency issue continues to hover in the background until the final decision comes down the pike. It may be a while before we know how Joseph Morris rules in the current case and if that ruling is appealed into the state court system. In the meantime, Emanuel's campaign is showcasing support for his right to make the ballot. On Saturday, his campaign released a statement listing nearly 50 "leading members of Chicago's legal community" who signed onto a brief supporting Emanuel's ability to stand for mayor. The signatories include former 43rd Ward Ald. Marty Oberman, former Congressman Abner Mikva, and Neil Hartigan, who once served as lieutenant governor. Eight past presidents of the Chicago Bar Association also signed on in support of Emanuel.
Some of the other candidates are clearly looking forward to having the issue resolved one way or another. City Clerk and would-be mayor Miguel del Valle, for instance, told Fox News Chicago yesterday he thinks the ex-White House Chief of Staff will be allowed on the ballot next year. He called the challenges to Emanuel's residency a "distraction" and parlayed the hubbub surrounding them into a critique about Emanuel's non-attendance at the recent mayoral forums. Watch:
To be sure, while the New Chicago 2011 forum was taking place on Tuesday, Emanuel was in the home stretch of a 12-hour day in the witness chair, carefully answering questions from his high-powered legal team and from the objectors to his run alike. And while Emanuel's campaign has promised he will participate in candidate debates next year, his absence from the forums last week is drawing plenty of scrutiny. The Sun-Times criticized him for skipping forums in an editorial published this morning:
Emanuel, the front-runner in all the polls, is skipping the smaller debates and forums, such as the one hosted by the Chicago Teachers Union last week, agreeing only to participate in a few large debates. This is bad for voters and bad for Emanuel. As a former congressman representing the North Side, Emanuel doesn’t have broad experience as a public official in every corner of Chicago.
Emanuel shifted the subject somewhat at a press conference about city health care costs this morning in the South Loop. He told reporters he'd seek to cut 20 percent in costs over four years from the city's annual health care expenditure by creating a comprehensive wellness program and focusing on preventative care. A fraction of the city workforce accounts for nearly two-thirds of all health care costs, Emanuel told reporters. Watch:
In the 2011 calendar year, the city will spend some $500 million on health care.
Elsewhere on the policy front, Carol Moseley Braun talked about her ideas for Chicago's women and minority contracting program this past weekend. In doing so, she offered a not-so-subtle rebuke to State Sen. James Meeks, saying contracting set-asides were a "matter of grave importance, not only to those of us who are African-American, or who are women, or who might be Hispanic or Asian or Native American or East Asian but to the community as a whole."
Meeks, of course, drew fire for saying on WVON-FM that, "I don't think women, Asians, and Hispanics should be able to use" the title of minority when it comes to city contracts. "That's why our numbers cannot improve, because we use women, Asians, and Hispanics, who are not people of color, who are not people who have been discriminated against," Meeks said.
Moseley Braun said if she's elected mayor she'd enforce existing minority and female contract regulations; push major contractors to offer subcontracts to minority- and women-owned firms; offer technical assistance to those bidding for city work; and try to offer contracts to Illinois companies.
Finally, having completed his legislative duties in Washington for the year, U.S. Rep. Danny Davis says he's ready to jump into the mayoral fray with both feet. “I’m just getting in this race,” the Sun-Times quoted Davis as saying on Sunday. “We’re just getting in the neighborhoods. We’re just getting in the streets. And we’re doing so with our name resting squarely at the top of the mayoral ballot.”
Whether or not it's too late for Davis to gain traction remains to be seen. Emanuel, Gery Chico, Meeks, Moseley Braun, and del Valle have been campaigning hard for some time, making regular media appearances, organizing volunteers, plotting campaign strategy, and raising money.