Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel's re-election super PAC is targeting 53 alderman candidates with a questionnaire designed to weed out pro-Rahm supporters from potential foes.
The Sun-Times reports that Chicago Forward—which has amassed nearly $1.4 million in outside money from business elites—is strategizing to form alliances with aspiring aldermen who could boost Emanuel's power within City Council. In an effort to pinpoint the most hospitable amongst the new blood, the PAC has asked candidates to respond "yes" or "no" to six questions on hot-button issues involving education reform, enforcing tighter gun laws, boosting the minimum wage and raising taxes to cover the city's financial woes.
According to the paper, one question aims to gauge whether they'd back the "tough, but necessary steps, such as increases in property taxes or additional efficiencies throughout city government." Another fields stances on supporting "high-quality school choices for families that include neighborhood, charter, IB, STEM, magnet and selective enrollment schools."
A second education-related question asks candidates to vote yay or nay on electing CPS school board officials, citing concerns that holding elections "would further politicize our city's public education system." (Emanuel's progressive enemies, Chicago Teachers Union boss Karen Lewis and 2nd Ward Ald. Bob Fioretti, each considering a run for mayor, support the idea.)
Fioretti recently accused Emanuel of using Chicago Forward as a means to "destroy" City Council's Progressive Caucus of which the alderman is leader. The mayor cannot legally align his campaign with group, which has no limit on political donations flowing in from Emanuel's wealthy allies.
Earlier this month, Ward Room's Mark Anderson observed a growing progressive movement in City Council and one that may be partly a response to anti-Rahm sentiment.
"There’s little doubt Emanuel and his allies expect to wield a big stick when it comes to potentially influencing aldermanic races in 2015," he wrote. "After all, a super PAC created for that purpose, Chicago Forward, has already raised more than $1 million. Among progressives, there’s a widespread belief much of that money will be used to defeat current members of the City Council’s Progressive Caucus, as well as try and stop any groundswell of candidates thinking they can come in and change City Council."
Chicago Forward CEO Becky Carroll tells the Sun-Times that the questionnaires will help the group divvy up campaign cash, saying: "We're prepared to invest significant resources in very strategic and targeted ways to advocate for issues we believe will keep moving our city forward."