The eleventh hour is here. Tuesday morning, the polls officially open for election day and all of the undecided voters will have to make a choice about who they want to lead the city as mayor and alderman for the next four years.
The 14 mayoral candidates made their closing pitches Monday in a mad dash for the finish line.
If you believe the panoply of polling, not one of those candidates is garnering more than 14 percent of voter support. Undecided voters are polling at the highest percentage, and only a few percentage points separate the top four or five candidates.
“There are legitimate polls showing that we are the first, second or third closing in on second. Essentially it’s a tie for first place,” candidate Susana Mendoza said at a campaign event in Hegewisch as she received the endorsement of the United Auto Workers union.
Other candidates, like Lori Lightfoot, who has seen her numbers improve in recent polling, hit several Metra and CTA L stops to greet voters face-to-face.
“We’ve been at this for a very long time, and we’ve been traversing the city for months and months and months, and all of that hard work is paying off,” she said while greeting voters near the State and Lake CTA L stop.
Gerry Chico has raised more than $3 million, which has allowed him a steady presence on the airwaves. Polling has shown him on the outside looking in, though not by much.
“You have to talk with everybody at train stops, coffee shops, businesses, you name it,” Chico said, greeting voters outside of an early voting spot in a McKinley Park Field House.
Paul Vallas echoed those sentiments as he stopped to chat with folks eating in the cafeteria of the James R. Thompson Center in the Loop. Vallas, who has not raised the same amount of money as some of the other candidates, touted the success of his ad buys on social media, noting that a YouTube ad had gotten more than 300,000 hits.
“If people want change, they’ve got to vote for it. I’m offering real change,” Vallas said.
Bill Daley had a lighter schedule Monday afternoon, hitting some North Side bakeries and bars. He has vastly outraised his opponents, including a $2 million haul from the state’s wealthiest resident, Ken Griffin. Although that doesn’t necessarily translate into the kind of get-out-the-vote armies that a candidate like Toni Preckwinkle, with big public sector union support, can muster. Still, Daley said he has used his resources to mobilize voters.
“We feel real good about our operation tomorrow, but also the run-up to this. Early voting, identifying our voters, reaching them and staying in touch with them for weeks and weeks on end,” Daley said.
Preckwinkle has seen heat in the last several weeks because of her ties to embattled Ald. Ed Burke, and a recent controversy in which she fired a top campaign aide that had posted a picture of Nazis in an attempt to criticize Lightfoot. Preckwinkle dismissed those stumbles as “political theater,” while stopping by her campaign office to help make phone calls with volunteers.
“I’m really optimistic, and I think the message we’ve been delivering over the last six months is resonating,” Preckwinkle said.
The importance of this mayor’s race might also be resonating. For all the talk of an anemic turnout, it has picked up in recent days. Election authorities say early voting has topped 100,000 already. There were 90,000 early votes in the 2015 race and 73,000 in the 2011 race.
Also, there are still 38,000-plus mail-in ballots as of Monday morning that have yet to be filled out and returned. That has some officials worried that there may not be an election result Tuesday night, or at least they won’t know the second place finisher that will make it to the two-person runoff.
For that reason, authorities are suggesting that people who have requested vote-by-mail ballots just come into a polling place and vote in person. They want to get the count done right away Tuesday.
“If you have not returned your ballot today, just come into one of our early voting sites. It will be fast and easy, despite the fact that we expect a large number of people to come in and vote, the ballot is short, it’ll only take a minute,” said Election Board Chairwoman Marisel Hernandez.
The results won’t be officially certified until March 13, just days before early voting begins for the runoff election.
Unregistered voters can register and vote Tuesday – they just need two forms of ID showing their home address. Polls open at 6 a.m.
Follow Paris Schutz on Twitter: @paschutz