I've received a number of emails and been the subject of a few blog posts chastising me for including some races and not including others; obviously, this is all highly subjective. As I pointed out in an earlier column, much of this is "gut feeling" and a general sense from the district.
Generally, though, the emails were very helpful in shedding light on some races and revealing the error of my ways on some others. This is a new list of the top races.
Before we get to that though, a word about the Chicago Federation of Labor's "no-endorsement" of the Mayor's race, an event that would have been unthinkable a few years ago. The no-endorsement by the CFL is bad for Daley, although not too bad since this is likely his last run at the Mayoralty — it is worse for the slew of competitive aldermanic candidates. If the CFL had had a viable alternative to Daley, they could have crafted at ticket that would likely have driven more voters — their voters — to the polls and thereby built a more effective city-wide GOTV operation. Jesse Jackson Jr.'s decision not to head up such a ticket will have serious implications for many of labor's candidates and will give a very false impression of weakness if they are unable to win the seats they've targeted. According to a recent Chicago Tribune article by Dan Mihalopolous, those seats are Madeline Haithcock (2nd), Dorothy Tillman (3rd), Darcel Beavers (7th), George Cardenas (12th), the open seat in the 15th, Shirley Coleman (16th), Howard Brookins (21st), Daniel Solis (25th), Ted Matlak (32nd), Emma Mitts (37th), Burton Natarus (42nd), Vi Daley (43rd) and Bernard Stone (50th).
Keeping things quick'n'dirty and in ward order:
1st Ward (Wicker Park, Bucktown): Seen Manny's new office, with two huge pictures of him, on Division Street and Paulina? Nice. The Man Who Would Be Congressman is unopposed.
2nd Ward (South Loop, North Bronzeville): Jesse Jackson Jr. has endorsed a former aid of his, Kenny Johnson, but Alderman Haithcock's biggest change will probably come from the well-financed Bob Fioretti. The CFL did not endorse anybody in this race, which leaves it even more wide open. This will go to a run-off.
3rd Ward (Bronzeville, South Side): Dorothy Tillman, what to say about you? I'll leave the tired jokes about your hats for the hacks, and just bring up the fact that you spent 20 percent of your ward's infrastructure funds on statues. CFL has endorsed Pat Dowell, who will force a run-off and win.
7th Ward (Chatham): Mmmm, Jackson family (Sandi Jackson) v. Beavers and friends (Darcel Beavers). The CFL has tapped Sandi Jackson, who is the Congressman's wife, but the Beavers family has an ace in the hole — well, not an "ace in the hole" so much as two entire suits up their sleeves, the Diamonds and Hearts of Chicago politics, the Strogers and Daleys. Anybody who gives you a hard-and-fast prediction of what's going to happen here is crazy. Just pop some popcorn, get off the Dan Ryan at 87th where the casino shuttles pick up, head east and enjoy the show.
11th Ward (Bridgeport): This year's Most Symbolic Act Ever Award goes to the Chicago Federation of Labor for their no-endorsement in this Daley stronghold ward. Alderman. James Balcer's voters could be forced to walk to the polling place on their hands, and he'd still get 60 percent of the vote.
15th Ward (Englewood): The CFL has endorsed Toni Foulkes, who is a member of the United Food and Commercial Workers and was among the leadership of the Big Box Living Wage Ordinance fight. Her highest-profile competitor and the leader of the pack is Denise Dixon, a former field director for Rainbow-PUSH and president of the local ACORN chapter. Foulkes' endorsement by the CFL will provide the cover for several very large labor locals — including SEIU Locals 1 and 880 — to support Foulkes over the Rainbow-PUSH candidate if they choose to do so (SEIU has not made official endorsements yet).
18th Ward (Auburn-Gresham, Scottsdale): If Bob Fioretti can overtake Madeline Haithcock in the 2nd Ward, this race will lose some significance as the racial balance of the Council will likely stay the same. White Alderman Tom Murphy moved on to a judgeship, and the CFL has endorsed Paul Stewart, who is African-American. Stewart is also probably the most well-qualified, and if the CFL comes through with money and some troops, that just might be the edge Stewart needs in a wide-open race. The appointed incumbent, Lola Lane, still has to be considered something of a favorite.
19th Ward (Beverly, Morgan Park): Ginger Rugai will not be able to avoid a run-off given the two capable opponents she faces in John Sommerville and Timothy Sheehan. Securing labor's endorsement in an area with lots of tradesmen will help her keep her seat.
20th Ward (Washington Park, Grand Crossing): Chicago's name will be Mudd when indicted Alderman Arenda Troutman is re-elected. Even if she's later found guilty of no wrongdoing. By the way, Alderman Troutman, your lawyer rules.
21st Ward (Brainerd, Roseland): Ald. Howard Brookins, Jr. learned a valuable lesson in Council politics when a deal was brokered to sink his Wal-Mart project and keep Ald. Emma Mitts' afloat. The lesson: Come to us with your head bowed, not your hand out. He will hold on to this seat against a bevy of candidates, and has received Congressman Jackson's endorsement although the CFL has obviously chosen to endorse former Rainbow-PUSH activist Leroy Jones, Jr.
25th Ward (Tri-Taylor, Pilsen): "Keep my head down, work hard, vote like I'm supposed to, and it will be mathematically impossible for me to not become Mayor. After all, I'm Danny Solis — Deputy Mayor extraordinaire, who runs the Council in the Mayor's absence. Wait wha– why is the Mayor making Del Valle the City Clerk? Why, that's just the sort of city wide office that could be a stepping stone to... What's going on around here? I did everything I was supposed to!"
32nd Ward (Lakeview, Bucktown): Revenge of the Second City got some interesting e-mail about Scott Waguespack (including from Waguey himself). Some less-than-happy Berwyn residents claim the mayor he helped get elected there has turned out to be a phony reformer, and cautioned me to be wary of Scott. This ward is in desperate need of very good leadership and the voters may be itching for change from the increasingly unpopular Ted Matlak, who secured the CFL's endorsement this time around. I won't devolve into he said-she said, y'all, because I don't do my readers like that. But if you're up in the 32nd, I would suggest making some phone calls and getting some promises from the candidates.
37th Ward (Austin, Humboldt): The CFL has endorsed nobody in the 37th Ward, the center of the Wal-Mart fight, and an economically depressed area with a high density of low-wage union workers. Ouch.
42nd Ward (Loop, Near North): Brendan Reilly must be schvitzing down there in the Loop — he can't blow this one! Reilly is young, smart, and has shown some talent at fundraising. He's got labor's endorsement and the incumbent is somewhat unpopular. And — wait for it — Reilly's got the top ballot position! In a ward like the 42nd, where voter turnover is high thanks to the evolutionary success of Royko's Condo Man, top ballot position might be all you need.
43rd Ward (Lincoln Park): Pete Zelchenko would sure like to say bye-bye to Vi Daley, the incumbent. In her defense, though, it can't be easy to be the alderman of the Lincoln Park area. I'm serious. High voter turnover, DePaul University students all over the place, you got a zoo with all those wild animals in it. Everybody who has ever driven on Clark Street between North and Belmont has sworn an oath to destroy whatever city planner is responsible for that crawling abomination. Also, note to Tim Egan, who got labor's endorsement: your sign on that warehouse off the Kennedy, right next to Rey Colon's? Good idea, but when the light hits it at night, it reflects and you can't read what it says. Might want to talk to your printer. Who, I'm assuming, is union.
46th Ward (Uptown, Edgewater): What the Helen? Shiller somehow secured the CFL's vote despite her conspicuous "No Vote" on Big Box Living Wage. Granted her previous decade or so of service probably played into that, but it is a serious blow for her highest-profile opponent, one James Cappleman. Cappleman has been running an energetic campaign and there is no doubt that the Uptown/Buena Park area is seriously split in who it supports. But is there enough of a "No-Helen" movement up there? I don't see it when I tour the neighborhoods, and talking to some of the activists up there, it will be an uphill climb. Shiller may be an independent on the Council, but that doesn't mean she doesn't have a mean electoral organization — she does.
49th Ward (East Rogers): We talk about labor being perceived as weak if their candidates don't perform well, but how about the Chamber of Commerce? They were selling wolf tickets right along with labor around the Big Box, and Joe Moore was their primary target. He looks to be in trouble, but certainly not down or out. And man, does this race rile some people up! No joke, East Rogers Parkers may be the most heated group of voters come February 27th. They care about their ward and the issues there and are passionate about making the Ward more livable. With its lakefront paths and parks, deep diversity and a great mixture of independently-owned businesses including restaurants, bars and coffeeshops, East Rogers Park should be the epitome of quality neighborhood city living, but congestion problems, lopsided rapid-fire development that has intensified those congestion problems, and call me a moron if you dare, but there is a "left" and a "right" solution to these problems. Zoning controls the size and types of developments that come in and the kind you drive out — there are people-side and a business-side solution to these problems. Moore tends towards the people-side, but that doesn't mean it sits well with all the people. He's got a major problem on his hands insofar as he has a huge target on his back — a number of activists in the ward are unhappy, and that can often counterbalance a much larger number of merely content constituents, especially in the 49th Ward, which is somewhat low-turnout as it is (about a third in 2003). This is aggravated by the fact that his biggest supporters, the progressive activist and labor communities, will be busy on their own targets and will be hard-pressed to provide on the ground support, although money should be plentiful. His opponents, the combative Jim Ginderske, the gone-a-courtin' business Don Gordon and pro-more-parking Chris Adams will overwhelm the area with anti-Joe rhetoric. Will that be enough to give them the votes to force a run-off? If so, can they knock him out when it's one-on-one, and his allies are freed up to help him out?
50th Ward (West Rogers — West Ridge for you old timers): Poor Bernie Stone. Wait, no, not poor Bernie Stone. The guy has been an Alderman for nearly 40 years, is nearly 80 years old, and has dominated the 50th Ward for decades. Never mind. I don't know what I was thinking. Oh, yeah! Poor candidates trying to beat Bernie Stone. It's going to be so hard. The oft-forgotten 50th is actually more similar to the Northwest and Southwest Side bungalow belt wards than to its lakefront neighbor the 49th or its more cosmopolitan neighbors on the North Side. What does that mean? Three words: Status Quo Ante. Still, the Chicago Federation of Labor gave its endorsement to Greg Brewer, a community organizer and businessman who, with that endorsement, could be considered the front runner. Could be. If there wasn't also the presence of one Naisy Dolar, who is itching to become the first Asian-American on the Council. According to Stella Foster's column in the Sun-Times, Dolar is getting out-of-state fundraising help. Dolar has been organizing for her campaign for at least a year and Dolar signs litter the ward. There is no way this doesn't go two rounds.