Ward Room
Covering Chicago's nine political influencers

Notes on Election 2011

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    NEWSLETTERS

    -- Rahm Emanuel was elected mayor of Chicago with the fewest votes since William Hale Thompson in 1919. Emanuel won 323,546 votes. Thompson won 259,828. That’s a result of Chicago shrinking to its lowest population since 1920, and of less effective political machines. (The biggest winner ever? Martin Kennelly, who ran up 919,593 votes in 1947.)

       -- Miguel del Valle’s “progressive surge” was limited to a few wards. Not surprisingly, his best ward was the 35th, which includes Logan Square. Latinos and hipsters, the two pillars of Del Valle’s constituency, live side by side there, and they gave Del Valle 35 percent of the vote. That’s why he held his Election Night party at Revolution Brewery on Milwaukee Avenue. Other than that, he only broke 20 percent in wards with Latino majorities.

     -- If Ameya Pawar knew anything about Chicago politics, he wouldn’t be an alderman-elect. Pawar was naïve enough to file against nine-term incumbent Eugene Schulter a year ago. As his Green Party opponent Matt Reichel notes, Pawar’s inexperience was “evidenced by the lack of ‘union bugs’ on his material, and the absence of any visible ground game.” Instead, he used social media and personally knocked on doors, which suited his highly educated, wired ward. Pawar was the beneficiary of outrage over a botched Machine hand-off from Schulter to former aide Tom O’Donnell. On Election Night, Pawar was watching the results with his parents in Des Plaines and had to rush to an improvised victory party when he realized he was winning.

      -- Rahm Emanuel drew equal strength from black and white voters. According to an analysis by the Chicago Reporter, Emanuel got 59 percent of the vote in predominantly black wards, and 59 percent in white wards. “What’s clear is that it’s black voters -- who gave more support to Emanuel than all of the other candidates combined -- helped pull the mayor elect across the finish line yesterday,” the Reporter concluded.

    When the race began, Emanuel was supposed to be the white candidate, while Moseley Braun was the black candidate. But Gery Chico did well enough among working-class whites to prevent Emanuel from winning outright without strong black support. Thanks to Moseley Braun’s incompetence -- she didn’t top 25 percent in any ward -- and Obama’s endorsement, he got it.

     -- Che “Rhymefest” Smith got 20 percent of the vote in the 20th Ward. That was good enough to guarantee him six more weeks of publicity, but not to give him a realistic chance of defeating Ald. Willie Cochran, who won 46 percent. Before this election, I didn’t know he co-wrote “Jesus Walks,” and I own The College Dropout.

     -- Another botched handoff took place in the 45th Ward, where retiring Ald. Patrick Levar endorsed labor activist Marina Faz-Huppert. The unions spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on Faz-Huppert’s campaign, but that wasn’t enough to overcome the fact that she’s only lived in the ward since 2009. So much for the Machine in a ward once run by Cook County Democratic Party Chairman Thomas Lyons.

     -- Will Berny Stone live to rant another four years? The 50th Ward’s Asian community will decide. Stone got 37 percent of the vote on Tuesday. Debra Silverstein, wife of his nemesis state Sen. Ira Silverstein, got 33 percent. As always, Stone ran up big numbers among the old Jewish widows in Winston Towers, where he lives. Stone and Silverstein ran even in the Indian and Pakistani wards. They hold the balance of power between the two Jewish candidates.