News & Politics » Ben Joravsky on Politics

Rahm reels toward his reelection bid

A new poll is the latest sign that Mayor Emanuel could be in trouble.

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I must admit I took a little satisfaction from Mayor Rahm Emanuel's dismal showing in the Sun-Times poll released over the weekend. For once, it looks like my estimation of what's going on at City Hall is shared by a majority of Chicagoans.

In case you missed it, Mayor Emanuel appears to be in a heap of trouble. If the election were held today—and if a couple of well-known candidates ran against him—Mayor Emanuel would win all of 29 percent of the vote. Cook County Board president Toni Preckwinkle would receive 26 percent, Chicago Teachers Union president Karen Lewis would get 10 percent, Alderman Robert Fioretti would take 5 percent, and former alderman Robert Shaw would get 3 percent.

Other than Shaw, none of these candidates is officially running. Yet.

By the way, the poll's second-place finisher was "Don't know," which reveals plenty about the Chicago electorate.

Actually, I think that some of the "Don't know" vote could be quietly for Mayor Emanuel—they're just too ashamed to admit it. I mean, it's hard to openly cheer for a guy who's so unpopular that he's booed when his face pops up on the Jumbotron at Northwestern football games.

Speaking of Chicago voters, my favorite part of the poll came when the Sun-Times asked if Mayor Emanuel was doing a better job than his predecessor, Rich Daley. A whopping 51 percent said no and only 18 percent said yes. Twenty-five percent said the two were about the same, which I suppose is how I'd answer that question.

In fairness to Mayor Emanuel, many of our financial problems are carry-overs from 22 years under Mayor Daley, including, though not limited to, his sale of the parking meters—which has deprived the city of tens of millions of dollars that are desperately needed for other things.

Like filling potholes, for example.

That subject has been on my mind since Friday, when my front axle almost gave out after I drove over a gargantuan pothole in the southbound lanes of Lake Shore Drive near the Michigan Avenue exit. The mayor might want to fix that one, assuming there's any money left over from his South Loop hotel and arena project.

But back to Mayor Daley's enduring popularity. I've come to the conclusion that something about the Daley name causes ordinary Chicagoans to lose their minds with giddiness. You could probably run a goat named Daley and he'd get 40 percent of the vote.

You know, if that goat is running against Mayor Emanuel, I might be tempted to vote for him too.

According to the poll, Mayor Emanuel would only get 8 percent of the black vote to 35 percent for Preckwinkle and 16 percent for Lewis.

In contrast, Emanuel won a majority of the vote in all of the city's black wards when he ran in 2011. Obviously, many black voters viewed Emanuel as President Obama's candidate, since he'd served under him as White House chief of staff.

The poll's second-place finisher was "Don't know," which reveals plenty about the Chicago electorate.

I like to tease members of the Chicago Teachers Union that if they'd endorsed former city clerk Miguel del Valle in the 2011 election—instead of being wimps and staying neutral—he'd have siphoned off enough voters to force Emanuel into a runoff.

Of course, that would have pitted Emanuel against former mayoral aide Gery Chico, which would have been asking voters to choose between one Daley loyalist or another.

The point is that, once he took office, Mayor Emanuel betrayed those south- and west-side supporters by closing mental health clinics, firing city workers, jacking up water bills, and closing dozens of schools. This left him free to build new schools on the north side—like Barack Obama College Prep, which the mayor wants to construct in a park near the Gold Coast.

For the record, the mayor's proposal to spend $60 million in TIF money on Obama high is about as unpopular as the mayor himself. Roughly 70 percent of the electorate would rather spend $60 million on something else, according to the poll.

Nonetheless, with the exception of Leslie Hairston, Roderick Sawyer, and Toni Foulkes, the City Council's 19 black aldermen remain loyal to the mayor. It will be interesting to watch all those incumbents try to talk their way out of that in next year's election.

I suppose the poll's biggest shocker is that the mayor had support from only 2 percent of the Hispanic voters polled. I mean, two percent?! I think Jim Oberweis did that well after he ran an ad suggesting that illegal immigrants were taking over the country.

Apparently Emanuel's strategy of cozying up to the United Neighborhood Organization—and signing off on new charter schools on the southwest and northwest sides—hasn't left Latinos as impressed as he'd hoped.

In my opinion, the big winner in all of this is Congressman Luis Gutierrez, the city's highest-profile Hispanic elected official. In 2011 Gutierrez campaigned for Chico, hammering Emanuel for, among other things, his tepid support of immigration reform.

I suspect the mayor will do plenty of sucking up to Gutierrez in the coming months as he tries to turn himself into a champion of immigrants' rights.

And if I know Congressman Gutierrez, he'll view this moment as a golden opportunity—as former Governor Blagojevich might put it—to squeeze the mayor for everything he can. As long as it's legal, of course.

Who knows? Maybe the mayor will take some TIF money, build a selective enrollment high school on the southwest side, and call it Congressman Luis V. Gutierrez College Prep.

For a mayor who's in trouble, these are desperate times.

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