Ward Room
Covering Chicago's nine political influencers

How Hard Is It To Defeat An Incumbent Mayor?

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How Hard Is It To Defeat An Incumbent Mayor?

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The next mayoral election is a little less than two years away and Rahm Emanuel looks like he might have a cake-walk reelection bid.

No one seems to want to challenge him.

But Ward Room thought it would take a look at how hard it is to defeat an incumbent. Looked at all the mayoral elections since 1907, when the term was extended to four years, we found that most races were won by incumbents  -- but most incumbents not named Daley were defeated. Here’s the list:

1907: Edward F. Dunne -- DEFEATED
1911: Fred A. Busse -- NOT A CANDIDATE
1915: Carter Harrrison Jr. -- NOT A CANDIDATE
1919: William Hale Thompson -- WON
1923: William Hale Thompson -- DEFEATED
1927: William E. Dever -- DEFEATED
1931: William Hale Thompson -- DEFEATED
1935: Edward J. Kelly -- WON
1939: Edward J. Kelly -- WON
1943: Edward J. Kelly -- WON
1947: Edward J. Kelly -- NOT A CANDIDATE
1951: Martin Kennelly -- WON
1955: Martin Kennelly -- DEFEATED
1959: Richard J. Daley -- WON
1963: Richard J. Daley -- WON
1967: Richard J. Daley -- WON
1971: Richard J. Daley -- WON
1975: Richard J. Daley -- WON
1977: Michael Bilandic -- WON SPECIAL ELECTION
1979: Michael Bilandic -- DEFEATED
1983: Jane Byrne -- DEFEATED
1987: Harold Washington -- WON
1991: Richard M. Daley -- WON
1995: Richard M. Daley -- WON
1999: Richard M. Daley -- WON
2003: Richard M. Daley -- WON
2007: Richard M. Daley -- WON
2011: Richard M. Daley -- NOT A CANDIDATE
2015: Rahm Emanuel -- ????
Incumbents have won 16 of the 26 elections in which they’ve run -- a 61 percent success rate. But incumbents not named Daley have won only six of their 15 re-election bids -- a lousy 40 percent. That ought to encourage anyone who wants to challenge Rahm Emanuel.

Related Topics Rahm Emanuel, Richard M. Daley
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