Miguel del Valle: A. Del Valle won the debate, in the sense that he gained more than any other candidate. Finally given the air time he can’t afford, del Valle passionately argued his case for neighborhood empowerment and good government. He was also the candidate who best understood the financial struggles of the average Chicagoan. “People have had it up to here with the city,” he said, sharing our exasperation with the red light cameras and parking meters that have been picking motorists’ pockets. Del Valle’s other big advantage: unlike his rivals, he had no skeletons to answer for. The worst the moderators could come up with was that he has no money, and he turned that around by saying, “If you’re looking for a candidate who’s beholden to the special interests, I’m not your guy.” Some voters have been waiting 50 years to hear his closing message that “Chicago is ready for reform.”
Gery Chico: B. Chico was trying to rabbit punch Rahm Emanuel from the moment the cameras went live. During the opening statements, he tried to attack Emanuel’s plan to tax hair cuts and pet grooming. “We’ll get to that,” the moderators told him. Finally given his chance, he said, “If you thought the Stroger Sales Tax was a killer, you will hate the Rahm Tax. This is the worst time to raise taxes and the last place a candidate should be looking for revenue.” Chico succeeded in his goal of looking like a competent bureaucrat, pointing out several times that he’d written 16 balanced budgets, and arguing that “we can’t cut our way out of this crisis,” but need to grow the city’s revenue base through job creation. Weirdly, during the debate, Chico was making snippy comments about his opponents on Twitter: “Breathe @DelValle4Mayor,” “@RahmEmanuel can’t do math.” Was his account hacked?
Rahm Emanuel: C. Emanuel has refused to participate in any of the community forums, and his lack of debating experience showed in his drowsy performance. Looking like Pacino in Godfather III, Emanuel was neither forceful nor engaging. Either he was afraid to display his profane, aggressive personality, or he’s decided he’s so far ahead in the polls he can coast through these debates. Claimed his service tax, which would reduce sales taxes from 9.75 percent to 9 percent, would be a “20 percent” cut. Chico called him out for bad math. Emanuel also failed to give a straight answer as to whether he deserved the $320,000 he earned for attending six meetings of the Fannie Mae board. “The reason I was on there is that we were doing innovative things in the city of Chicago as regards to mixed-income housing,” he said. Emanuel has the most to lose from these debates, and I saw more than one Internet commenter who switched to del Valle or Moseley Braun.
Carol Moseley Braun: C-. Defensive and combative, as always, Moseley Braun spent more time attacking Chico and Emanuel for getting rich off government service than she did promoting her own vision for Chicago. “Just be honest, Gery,” she said, “most of your clients are people who do business with Chicago. You have gone from one government revolving door to another. Quite frankly, Rahm, you have gone from one government appointment to another.” Had her best moment when she argued that charter schools are weakening neighborhood schools, but is that a message parents want to hear? Moseley Braun had to defend her late property tax payments -- “I was trying to keep a struggling business” -- but used that moment to reveal Emanuel paid his taxes late after he moved to D.C.