With Emanuel Out, Who’s In? The Wide-Open Race for Chicago Mayor

It’s been nearly a week since Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel made the shocking announcement that he won’t run for a third term, and the already wide field of mayoral hopefuls continues to ebb and flow.

Retiring Cook County Clerk David Orr, who served as interim mayor in 1987, told Chicago Tonight on Monday evening that although he considered running for mayor because he cares so much about the city, he decided to stick with his original plan of going to the private sector.

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Orr says he will stay involved in Chicago politics, however, with plans to use a political action committee to elect a mayoral candidate and aldermen who share his views that the city needs “redirection” – a greater focus on neighborhoods, and addressing inequalities. Orr said it’s too early to know who that mayoral candidate will be.

Two potential options surfaced on Monday.

State Rep. LaShawn Ford, D-Chicago, said West Side-elected officials voted to open an exploratory committee on his behalf.

And city Treasurer Kurt Summers, who has yet to formally announce a bid for re-election to that post, launched a website seeking input from the public with prompts like “the qualities I want to see in the next mayor.”

Summers is one of many current officeholders who could set off a game of musical chairs should he decide to aim for higher office.

Others who’d spur a reshuffling include candidates who will first be on the 2018 ballot:

• Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, whose political director Scott Kastrup said in a statement is “giving serious consideration to running for mayor and will be making an announcement regarding her decision shortly.”

• Illinois Comptroller Susana Mendoza, who has said she is focused on her bid for re-election but who did not rule out a mayoral run; some of her backers hope volunteers will begin to pass out petitions on her behalf.

• U.S. Rep. Mike Quigley, who likewise has not ruled out a run for mayor, saying only in a Sept. 4 statement of Emanuel’s stepping down after his current term that “we should all take this opportunity and the days ahead to reflect on what the city of Chicago needs moving forward to become safer, stronger, and more secure.”

• Cook County Board member Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, who as Democrats’ nominee for the seat now held by retiring 4th District Congressman Luis Guiterrez has an easy path to Washington D.C.

Latino leaders are expected to meet this week to attempt to coalesce around a candidate; Garcia and Guiterrez are the names most often mentioned.

Bill Daley, son of Richard J. Daley and brother of former mayor Richard M. Daley, is said to be considering being the latest in his family to occupy the fifth floor of city hall. Daley told Chicago Tonight on Monday he will share his plans “shortly.”

Also unknown is whether any of the already declared candidates will drop out of the running, particularly if another candidate enters who will siphon off their constituency.

Democratic campaign strategist Tom Bowen cautioned to be wary of emerging polls that portend to put a candidate in the lead, especially with a field far from settled.

“There is not going to be a front-runner in this race in my opinion,” Bowen said. “The time period by which we can sort of judge, I’d say, who is in front is much more 2019 than it is 2018. I think the next few months – a lot of maneuvering, a lot of fundraising, a lot of polls that are flashing around that may not capture the entire field quite yet. So a lot of uncertainty ahead.”

The steady media stream of “will s/he, won’t s/he” scenarios pondering who enter the Feb. 26 contest threaten to distract voters from November’s upcoming crucial midterm election contests for Illinois governor, attorney general, state legislative and congressional seats.

Bowen says that portends well for Democrats, who “have a pretty strong current of voter support” right now, but that could spell trouble for candidates who lack money, name recognition or are attempting to upset an incumbent in a swing district.

“If you are a statewide campaign trying to get some attention to your race, Chicago mayor is now blocking you from getting a lot of media coverage,” Bowen said.

Follow Amanda Vinicky on Twitter: @AmandaVinicky

Related stories:

Mayor Emanuel Won’t Run for Re-election. What That Means for Candidates.

Candidates for Chicago Mayor Face Tough Path to Ballot, City Hall

Emanuel’s Aldermanic Friends, Foes React to Bombshell Announcement

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