Bumps in the road? | Bleader

Bumps in the road?

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I once asked an alderman if I could talk to him about Chicago’s independent politicians. “Have you found any yet?” he asked me. They were hard to come by at that time—about three years ago—and they’re still not plentiful. But more of them might start surfacing after yesterday.

For starters, Richard Daley may have won by a huge margin, but the raw (and unofficial) totals show that few voters were enthusiastic about him or the race. Daley has never won a mayoral election with so few votes--317,266, with 98 percent of the precincts reporting. While Dorothy Brown ran a campaign that was far too conservative and low-key (not to mention underfunded) to compete, I’m not sure anyone thought she would finish under 100,000 votes.

In the City Council races three incumbents lost outright: the 7th Ward’s Darcel Beavers, who’s only held the seat for a couple of months, after being appointed to replace her father; the 20th Ward’s Arenda Troutman, whose campaign imploded after she was charged with bribery last month; and the 42nd Ward’s Burton Natarus, who’s best known for his off-center speechmaking (on anything from comic books to wake in the Chicago River) and attempts to legislate cleanliness and social order.

It’s not at all clear what priorities their replacements will bring to the council—or, more to the point, how likely they will be to part ways with the mayor. Brendan Reilly, Natarus's usurper, has vowed to work closely with Mayor Daley, and more importantly, the 42nd Ward produced more than 10,000 votes for the mayor, one of the highest totals in the city. That means Reilly will likely be under pressure to go along with the administration when contentious issues come up.

In the 20th Ward Troutman was defeated by Willie Cochran, who was backed by Bishop Arthur Brazier and the Reverend Leon Finney Jr., two of the most powerful figures on the south side—and big-time Daley supporters.

Seventh Ward alderman-elect Sandi Jackson is the most likely of the three to go her own way, since she owes her seat to her husband, Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr., an ambitious would-be mayor and occasional critic of Daley’s. For years the ward has been dominated by proud machine Democrat William Beavers, the city chairman of the Cook County Democratic Party. But last night his daughter polled less than a third of the votes cast, and Daley garnered 53 percent of the ward’s mayoral votes—a majority, but one of his shakiest performances in the city.

Of the 11 wards that will have runoff elections, independent-minded aldermen are most likely to come out of the 15th, 16th, 21st, and 49th wards. Daley had underwhelming support in the 15th and 16th, where union-backed Toni Foulkes and JoAnn Thompson were the top finishers yesterday. Twenty-first Ward incumbent Howard Brookins Jr. hasn’t had the smoothest relationship with the mayor over the last four years; his opponent, Leroy Jones Jr., is an official with the Service Employees International Union; and the 21st’s voters are among the most Daley-skeptical in Chicago, giving Dorothy Brown and Dock Walls their highest combined total (6,807) of any ward. In the 49th Ward, where alderman Joe Moore will face activist Don Gordon, voters have elected independents since 1979.

On the other side, no alderman has been more enthusiastic about his love of the mayor than the 12th Ward’s George Cardenas, who routed union-backed opponent Carina Sanchez. But that doesn’t mean his ward is as crazy about Daley as he is. The mayor won the ward handily, but received fewer than 4,000 votes there, one of his weakest showings anywhere. And while Cardenas helped Daley sustain his veto of the big-box minimum-wage ordinance last fall, 83 percent of 12th Ward voters backed a nonbinding referendum favoring a “living wage.”

Add it all up and the list of potential independents looks something like this: incumbents Toni Preckwinkle (4th), Fredrenna Lyle (6th), Ricardo Munoz (22nd), who all won reelection outright; Foulkes (15th), Thompson (16th), and Moore (49th), should they win; and Brookins or Jones (21st). On certain issues the mayor’s declining support—or aggressive federal investigators—could embolden aldermen Manny Flores (1st), Billy Ocasio (26th), Ed Smith (28th), Tom Allen (38th), and Helen Shiller (46th), who’ve all shown flashes of independence. If they win runoffs, expect Pat Dowell (3rd), Scott Waguespack (32nd), Alderman Rey Colon (35th), and Naisy Dolar (50th) to join in the fun every so often.

Of course, all of these people could decide that it’s just easier to let the mayor do his thing while they stick to securing the money for new speed bumps in their alleys. It’s happened before.

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