Is the Chicago Machine About to Run Out of Gas?


In the machine politics Chicago is known for, coming in first in a mayoral election with less than 50% of the vote is a disaster described in two words – election runoff.

That’s where things stand now following Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel (D) failure to win an absolute majority in the last Tuesday’s mayoral election with just 45% of the vote. The runoff election between Emanuel and runner up Cook County Commissioner Jesus “Chuy” Garcia (D) who received 34 percent of the vote is scheduled for April 7.

Emanuel who is running for re-election is expected to win according to the Chicago Tribune but “enters the runoff with some tarnish on the aura of invincibility he had long sought to project, while Garcia’s progressive liberal challenge no longer seems quite the long shot it once did.”

Here is why Garcia might win.

Going into the primary, Emanuel had enormous advantages. He was cozy with President Barack Obama (himself the product of Chicago politics), he had a fat campaign war chest, four years of political patronage under his belt, name recognition that could not be matched and no seasoned opponent with the ability to overcome these advantages.

Clearly, the voters who wanted to re-elect Emanuel, voted that way on Election Day. The rest of the votes were distributed among four other rivals seeking to unseat him. This is where the political math could rob Emanuel of victory in the April 7 runoff based on this assumption.

With Emanuel being so famous and having so many advantages, it is unlikely that he will win more than the 45% of the vote he won the first time around against four challengers who together received 55% of the vote. That means the “anyone but Rahm” vote will coalesce around the runner up whomever that is – in this case Jesus “Chuy” Garcia.

More evidence that Garcia might win.

Garcia was late to the race throwing his hat into the ring when Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis – a candidate that polled well against Emanuel – fell ill in the weeks leading up to Election Day. Theoretically, any candidate entering the race so late should have had no chance of scoring an upset against an entrenched incumbent.

But Garcia did.

According to the Chicago Tribune, “the results also were an embarrassment for Obama, who used a trip home in the final days of the campaign to shower praise on his former White House chief of staff in remarks that were then quickly turned into an Emanuel campaign commercial.”

It is possible that President Barack Obama felt that he owed Emanuel a public endorsement since Emanuel lead the effort to pass Obama’s singular domestic policy achievement ObamaCare in the wake of the market crash in 2009 with this quote:

“You never let a serious crisis go to waste.”

Morgan is a freelance writer for a variety of publications covering popular culture, societal behavior and the political influences of each.