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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The voters strike again

Posted By on 03.21.12 at 11:15 AM

Rahm wins again.

Our esteemed mayor wasn’t technically on the ballot yesterday. In fact, he wasn’t even in the state—he was issuing statements to the press from a skiing vacation out west.

But no one fared better than he did in the Democratic primaries: everyone he endorsed came out on top.

This is either evidence of his expanding might and influence or confirmation that he knows how to pick a winner. In either case, it’s likely to inspire aldermen and legislators to bow down just a little bit lower in Mayor Emanuel’s presence—if this is physically possible.

Try not to smash your face on the floor, guys.

A few additional thoughts on the election:

• Among Mayor Emanuel’s biggest victories: his protege Tammy Duckworth won the right to take on Republican Joe Walsh in the Eighth Congressional District in the northwest suburbs. This matchup, in a nationally watched swing district, is likely to heat up starting . . . well, last night, when Walsh was already making the rounds touting his opposition to everything done, proposed, considered, not done, potentially proposed, once allegedly considered, and otherwise socialized by President Obama.

• Toni Preckwinkle may have been too generous in her endorsements. While she felt the need to help lots of allies and other "good people" who helped her become Cook County Board president, her candidates lost the races where they went head to head with Emanuel’s, such as in the Eighth Congressional District and the Democratic primary for state supreme court.

• And now—the court clerk’s race!!!! I know, we can’t make enough jokes about the excitement level surrounding this office, even if it’s got a $108 million annual budget and 2,100 employees who work hard to maintain a 1990s-era court records system. But the results underscore one of the basic rules of politics: if the voters snooze, the challengers lose. That’s why Preckwinkle’s old friend from the City Council, Rick Munoz, was crushed by incumbent court clerk Dorothy Brown. On the upside, Munoz may have pushed Brown to pick up the pace of modernization in the office, and it’s up to the rest of us to keep sending the message. I’ll let you know what I hear back from Brown when the carrier pigeon returns.

• All is not lost for Preckwinkle. Her popularity and reform efforts may not have translated into statewide electoral clout, but she could turn that on its head by trying to convince us that, to her, loyalty to people and principle outweighs political gain. That won’t explain her unwavering alliance with the Berrios family, but hey, they’re the nicest group of insiders profiting off the system that you can find in this town.

• Preckwinkle also achieved her top priority—protecting her own base. That is, she got her former aide, Christian Mitchell, a victory in the 26th state house district. But the cost may be high. For starters, the ugly primary alienated a long-time ally who was an even more important part of her Hyde Park-based organization. And it’s hard to see how Mitchell isn’t beholden to Mayor Emanuel, whose endorsement he loudly touted, and Stand for Children, the group that’s set out to reform education by undercutting teachers unions. The organization gave his campaign $50,000 last weekend.

• Munoz, Preckwinkle, and the southwest-side independence movement lost a tough one in the 21st state house district. For the second time in two years, activist and Munoz ally Rudy Lozano Jr. fell short in a challenge against the power brokers. This time he was 318 votes shy of Silvana Tabares, a protege of Juan Rangel. Rangel of course heads the United Neighborhood Organization, one of the leading charter school operators and the most powerful force in Hispanic politics in Illinois.

• Speaking of the Berrios family—I’ve got to give credit to Will Guzzardi for running a hell of a campaign against state rep Toni Berrios. When Guzzardi told me a few months back that he was quitting his gig with the Huffington Post to take on the Berrios operation, I told him he was gonna get his ass kicked. Maybe I should stick to picking winners in sports. As I write this, Guzzardi is trailing by just 72 votes with 98 percent of the precincts reporting—and that's after Emanuel supposedly joined Preckwinkle in opposing him. Even if he ends up short, Guzzardi will win—he’ll have earned the name recognition and campaign credibility for his next run for this or another office. And I’ll be candid: he’ll become the real deal if he shows us that he’s willing to challenge every obstacle to good government, whether it’s named Berrios, Madigan, Emanuel, or anything else. It’s not Guzzardi’s fault that most white reformers find it easier to take on black and Hispanic machine guys than the real heavy hitters, but he's got the opportunity to show us he's a new breed.

• The results in the Tenth state house district remind us that Chicago voters prefer indicted liberal Democrats backed by the lovable Jesse White over Republicans of any sort. This is especially true when the Republican is a white guy trying to pass as black in an African-American district. Who says anything’s the matter with Chicago?

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