Historic Windy City Election: Will Rahm Become Chicago’s First Jewish Mayor?


rahm-emanuelChicagoans have begun the process of electing a new mayor, taking to the polls this morning in a light snow and finding ballots that, for the first time in 22 years, don’t hold the name Richard M. Daley.This historic municipal election got under way at 6 a.m., as polls opened and campaign volunteers set up just outside no-electioneering zones at sites across the city. Along with the mayoral candidates, 239 men and women are running for alderman, with only seven uncontested races in the 50 wards.

After voting at The Shrine of Our Lady of Pompeii in Little Italy, Katie Klabusich, 31, declined to reveal her mayoral vote, but said she was grateful for the chance to consider someone other than Daley.

“I think it’s time to change something,” she said. “I always voted for (Daley) but sometimes that was for lack of option. The choice today was about who was most equipped.”

Pre-Election Day polls showed former congressman and White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel well ahead of his three major challengers: Carol Moseley Braun, the former U.S. senator and the first black woman elected to that office; Gery Chico, who has held high-level positions at City Hall, Chicago Public Schools, the Chicago Park District and City Colleges, and Miguel del Valle, the first Latino in the state Senate and currently city clerk.

Also on the ballot are Patricia Van Pelt-Watkins and community activist William “Dock” Walls.

The big question appears to be whether Emanuel can get the 50 percent plus one vote needed to avoid a one-on-one runoff election April 5.

The polls are open until 7 p.m. and Chicago election officials predict voter turnout will be a little more than 50 percent. Many of those turning out this morning said they were excited about the election, considerably moreso than in past years when a Daley victory seemed a foregone conclusion.

Kim Hanna, 41, voted in the 47th Ward and called the election “an exciting time.”

“The biggest thing for me is all the energy I have seen,” she said. “There is anticipation and sort of anxiety about where the city is going and where this neighborhood goes from here.”

Joy and Chris Donohoe brought their toddler son with them to the 47th Ward polling place at Coonley Elementary School. They saw it as a historic moment, a rare time when – because Ald. Eugene Schulter was not running for the first time in more than three decades – there was no incumbent mayor or alderman on their ballot.

“We have been here for 15 years, and it is the first time we feel like we have a choice,” Joy Donohoe said. “The power of the incumbent in this city is so strong that it is difficult to overcome. It is not a dig against Mayor Daley. It was always just a foregone conclusion he would win.”

Chris Donohoe said there is a lot hanging in the balance with this election.

“The stakes are really high with budget deficits, less revenue, increased takes — we better get it right this time,” he said. “Someone is going to have to make some tough decisions.”

In the same ward where Rahm Emanuel announced his candidacy in November, about 10 percent of the registered voters had turned out by 9 am.

“It is about normal so far,” said 47th Ward election judge Mike Kirkpatrick.

Voting has been slow in the 48th Ward in Margate Park. At the 4th precinct, workers said only 70 of the 786 registered voters had cast ballots as of 9 a.m.

Terrence Hayden, 67, echoed the excitement of many other votes, saying this is the first real mayoral election Chicago has had in years.

“It’s not the Daley machine. It’s new players,” Hayden said. “Prior to this, it didn’t matter who you voted for, Daley was going to win. This time we have a real choice.”

For Hayden and his wife Liz, 62, that choice was Rahm Emmanuel.

“He will try to do the right thing for as many people as possible,” Liz Hayden said.

Her husband added: “He’s just a phone call away from the White House.”

Down the street in the 24th precinct, the situation was worse. Only 17 people had voted this morning. Workers joked about whether they would even see 60 all day.

“This is much slower than I’ve ever seen it,” said Linda Banks, a polling place administrator who has worked elections for many years. “I don’t know if it’s because of the candidates or if nobody gives a care anymore. We could have brought our cots and went to bed.”

Chico and his wife, Sunny, arrived at a polling place in Little Italy at about 7:30 a.m. to cast their ballots.

“We’re confident in the message that we’ve put out there,” Chico said. “If you want more jobs in our neighborhoods, I’m your guy. If you want better schools throughout our city, I’m your guy. And if you want safer streets with more police, I’m your guy.”

Martin McGlone, 45, who voted for Chico just after 8 a.m., said: “I feel he’s a true-blood Chicagoan.”

At The Shrine of Our Lady of Pompeii, where a few dozen voters waited, cups of coffee in hand, about 50 ballots had been completed by 8 a.m., election officials said.

The U.S. attorney’s office and the Cook County state’s attorney’s office are monitoring polling places for any irregularities reported and to investigate allegations of fraud.

{Chicago Tribune/Matzav.com Newscenter}