For those Lawrentians from Chicago, I hope that absentee ballots were mailed and fingers were crossed for this week’s municipal election. As the results were announced on Tuesday, it became clear that Rahm Emanuel would become the City of Chicago’s next mayor.
Emanuel, who left his position as President Obama’s Chief of Staff to run for mayor of Chicago, also served as a member of the House of Representatives and worked as a top advisor to President Clinton. He also worked for the investment banking firm Wasserstein Perella and served on the board of Freddie Mac — the later position earned him over $300,000 in personal funds and illegal contributions to his congressional campaigns.
While serving in Clinton’s administration, Emanuel was essential in pushing NAFTA through Congress. The North American Free Trade Agreement is, of course, known for its disastrous results, which include forcing thousands of Mexican farmers out of work, undercutting small businesses and causing damaging environmental effects in Mexico, Canada and the United States.
Also on the mayor-elect’s résumé: voting for funding the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan indefinitely, voting for making the PATRIOT Act permanent, voting against withdrawal from Iraq in 2005, sending a dead fish in the mail to a pollster and, after the 1996 election, shouting the names of political opponents over dinner while stabbing a steak knife into the table and yelling, “dead!”
To end the electoral process in February, a mayoral candidate must garner a majority of the votes casted. Otherwise, a runoff election is held in April. Although I thought it unlikely that Emanuel would lose the election in the end, I was hoping to see his opponents receive enough votes to force the election into the runoff phase.
As of press time, when 99 percent of precincts were reporting, Emanuel had 55 percent, Gery Chico received 24 percent, Miguel del Valle and Carol Moseley Braun each had 9 percent and Patricia Van Pelt Watkins and William Walls III each received less than 2 percent. Voter turnout, at roughly 45 percent, was more than in several previous elections, but that is likely due to the absence of an incumbent running. Current Mayor Richard M. Daley has been in office for 22 years.
Emanuel raised over $12 million for his campaign. Only 46 percent of those funds were actually raised in Chicago, however. Steven Spielberg contributed $75,000, Donald Trump gave $50,000, Steve Jobs donated $100,000. The Pritzker family gave over $200,000 and Joe Mansueto, CEO of Morningstar, contributed $100,000. All the funds of the other candidates combined totaled less than half of Emanuel’s.
I am disappointed that such a large number of Chicagoans either didn’t go to the polls or chose to vote for Emanuel if they did. However, I am more disappointed in, and frankly disgusted by, Emanuel’s tactics and in the CEOs and billionaires that contributed to his campaign.
I hope that future years will bring an improvement in Chicago electoral trends. For now, let’s hope the new mayor doesn’t drag Chicago further into political corruption.