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With Preckwinkle Out The Mayoral Race Is Still Emanuel's To Lose

By Chuck Sudo in News on Jul 16, 2014 6:00PM

Photo credit: © 2014, Brooke Collins/City of Chicago

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle’s announcement Tuesday she would not run for mayor next year effectively changed nothing about the mayoral race with seven months to go before next Feburary's election. Despite low approval ratings, Rahm Emanuel is barely being challenged at this point, but that could soon change.

Preckwinkle told reporters her high approval ratings in polls conducted by the Sun-Times “basically forced my hand” and prompted her to end months of incessant questioning about an Emanuel-Preckwinkle showdown with a definitive “no.” (Although she’s been saying that for as long as she’s been asked; sometimes, even when being questioned by the media, “no” means “no.”)

Preckwinkle added she made her decision to assure voters she had no other plans than to seek re-election as County Board President.

“If they hadn’t published those poll results, I don’t think the questions would have been of the same volume, intensity, frequency, whatever. But given the poll results, I think it was going to be hard to get people to focus on anything else we were doing, because the questions would all be about the mayor’s race.”

With Preckwinkle ending speculation the focus once again turns to who will challenge Emanuel and whether Karen Lewis will officially announce a run. The Chicago Teachers Union president is inching closer to a decision, has formed an exploratory committee to explore a run, has minced no words about her distaste for Emanuel’s mayoralty and had publicly supported a Preckwinkle candidacy for mayor. Lewis called Preckwinkle’s announcement a game changer but that it won’t influence her eventual decision. However, there was some indication Lewis was slowing the brakes on her decision, which she originally said she would announce in August.

I’m not going to allow somebody to back me into a decision. I’m going to make this decision when I’m ready to make it.”

Another prospective candidate, 2nd Ward Ald. Bob Fioretti, is inching closer to a formal announcement. Fioretti said he will undertake a “listening tour” of all 50 wards and will make a decision by the end of August, “if not sooner.” Fioretti has long been a critic of Emanuel and it’s known the two have what may be best termed as a frosty relationship. Fioretti also mounted a short-lived run for mayor four years ago and has long had eyes on the Fifth Floor.

The only other announced candidates for mayor are former 9th Ward Alderman Robert Shaw and community organizer Amara Enyia. Shaw, who announced his candidacy in March, said he was the “strongest possible black candidate to challenge” Emanuel, a sign some black politicians in Chicago learned little from the fight to be the “consensus black candidate” in the 2011 mayoral race, especially ones like Shaw who have spent the past decade living in political exile in South Holland until a few months ago.

Enyia, in a profile published on Gapers Block, essentially said she’s running to show anything is possible but doesn't harbor a real chance of challenging Emanuel, much less winning.

"I'm not so concerned with the outcome in terms of win or lose. It's just doing what I need to do, because I've seen a vision of what can happen if we all felt that way, if we all believed that we can actually change things."

Not exactly the rhetoric voters dissatisfied with Emanuel want to hear.

Lewis’ flirting with a run remains the one that garners the most headlines because of her longstanding animosity with the mayor. We have to admit being intrigued by her plans to open a campaign office in every neighborhood area in Chicago, which is a page out of the Obama 2012 playbook and could be similarly geared toward registering new voters and encouraging currently registered ones to head to the polls in February. And that’s all we’re asking for: to see voters engaged and making a choice months from now. A Lewis candidacy could help spark a runoff election and she’s said all along she doesn’t want to make an Emanuel re-election an easy task.