The Sun-Times’s quickie poll on the mayor’s race has a few statistical problems -- only 14 percent of the voters polled were African-American, which is less than half their representation in Chicago -- but it does offer a good early look at the candidates’ strengths.
In a city that is 42 percent white, 37 percent black, and 26 percent Latino, putting together a multi-racial coalition will be the key to winning this race. By that standard, Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart, state Sen. James Meeks and White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel are all looking good. Congressmen Jesse Jackson, Jr. and Luis Gutierrez aren’t.
The leaderboard looks like this:
The poll has a sampling error of 4 percent, and it doesn’t match the city’s demographics, so it’s impossible to call anyone the front-runner. When you look at the cross-tabs, Dart and Meeks both do well outside their ethnic groups. Dart is the first choice of 16 percent of white voters, 8 percent of black voters, and 6 percent of Latino voters. Meeks has 17 percent of black voters, 9 percent of white voters, and 2 percent of Latino voters.
Then we get to Jackson and Gutierrez. They both win their ethnic groups. Jackson has 22 percent of the black vote, but a pitiful 1 percent of the white vote and 4 percent of the Latino vote. Gutierrez gets 36 percent of the Latino vote, but only 5 percent of the white vote and 4 percent of the Latino vote.
As for Rahm Emanuel, he seems to draw equally from all ethnic groups. He actually does best with Latinos, who give him 11 percent of their votes. Whites give Emanuel 7 percent and blacks give him 6 percent.
If the black community unites behind a single candidate, he’ll make the run-off. But Meeks and Jackson will have a tough time outside their community. Meeks is an outspoken opponent of gay rights, which will kill him on the North Side. Jackson’s father was known as “the president of black America,” but the Jackson family’s involvement in racial controversies turns off white voters.
The black community’s best candidate may be a white candidate: Ald. Bob Fioretti, who represents the 2nd Ward, the birthplace of black political power in Chicago. According to the Sun-Times's Mark Brown, when Fioretti appeared on WVON, state Sen. Rickey Hendon called in to praised him. Rep. Bobby Rush, who was also in the studio, suggested to Fioretti that “we should get together.” Fioretti is one of the City Council’s leading bloviators, along with Ed Burke, Ed Smith and Dick Mell. His criticism of Daley will appeal to white independents.
Emanuel has spent most of his career in Washington, D.C. He’s the only celebrity among the candidates, but he has not met many voters outside the Northwest Side congressional district he represented from 2003 to 2008. His biggest task will be convincing Chicagoans that he’s one of us, though he does look like a candidate who can win support citywide.