Chuy Garcia as Mayor? It Could Happen


Written by Russ Stewart

It’s reality check time in the Chicago mayoral race. Chuy Garcia is not Harold Washington. This is not 1983. The Hispanic base vote is nowhere near the black base vote, then and now. The result of the Feb. 24 municipal election, which set up an April 7 runoff between Garcia and Mayor Rahm Emanuel, may or may not be a “consciousness-raising” event. “They are energized,” Frank Avila, a longtime political activist, said of Hispanic voters.

Will Hispanic turnout on April 7 be anemic as usual or awesome? Here are a few incontrovertible facts:

First, Chicago’s population is 2,695,598, of which roughly 32 percent (865,000) are white, 44 percent (1,185,000) are black and 24 percent (647,000) are Hispanic. The number of registered voters in Chicago is 1,421,430, and roughly 51 percent are white (735,000), 40 percent are black (575,000) and 9 percent are Hispanic (135,000). Barely 20 percent of the city’s Hispanics are voters, due to non-citizenship, non-interest or age. Garcia could muster 90 percent of the Hispanic vote, and it barely matters.

Each ward has a population of approximately 54,000. The predominantly black and predominantly white wards have 25,000 to 35,000 registered voters, while most Hispanic wards have 18,000 to 25,000 registered voters. Turnout on Feb. 24 was about 40 to 50 percent in the white-majority wards, about 30 to 35 percent in the black-majority wards, and about 25 to 30 percent in the predominantly Hispanic wards. If those numbers are replicated on April 7, Garcia will lose.

Second, Garcia got an unimpressive 48,865 votes in the 14 Hispanic-majority wards on Feb. 24, which made up 30.6 percent of his citywide total of 159,600. Of the total votes (481,221), 96,843 (20.1 percent) were cast in the Hispanic-majority wards. Therefore, it is absurd to speculate about Garcia’s path to victory. Instead, the focus is on Emanuel avoiding a path to defeat, and that pathway is elemental: If the mayor wins at least 55 percent of both the black vote and the white vote and 30 to 35 percent of the Hispanic vote, he will be re-elected.

Third, Garcia has a yawning credibility gap. He’s not of mayoral stature. Only a miniscule number of people will vote for him because they want him to be mayor; the vast bulk of the Garcia votes will be from people who don’t want Emanuel to be mayor. Putting a clueless liberal like Garcia in City Hall would be a disaster, but a huge number of both white and black voters have concluded that 4 more years of Emanuel would be a disaster. Their attitude is, regardless of who wins, it can’t get any worse, but it will, with more taxes, more spending, more cutbacks.

Garcia can win simply because he’s not Emanuel. The anger of many white and black voters toward the mayor is palpable. The opportunity to oust him is so deliciously tempting, but every evasion or contradiction manifested by Garcia will cost him votes. He should spend 3 weeks in Cancun and get a serious case of lockjaw.

Garcia cannot win the runoff, but Emanuel can lose it.

Here’s a “scouting report” on the 14 wards where Hispanics are a majority, two newly created. White aldermen will remain in the 13th, 14th, 23rd and 33rd wards, and maybe the 10th, and a lot of Hispanic powerhouses, especially in the North Side Puerto Rican wards, are behind Emanuel.

1st Ward: North of the Loop, filled with both yuppies and Hispanics . . . Joe Moreno has been the alderman since Rich Daley appointed him in 2010 . . . He has not been an Emanuel stooge, often opposing the mayor . . . The ward has 29,232 registered voters, but only 8,520 voted on Feb. 24 . . . Emanuel’s political action committee backed ‘s Anne Shaw in four-candidate race . . . Moreno eked out a 51 percent win, and he is backing Garcia . . . Garcia won the ward 4,111-3,329 (with 48.9 percent of the vote, and he will win the runoff 60-40 (4,500-3,000).

10th Ward: Once the lair of Eddie Vrdolyak . . . In the far southeast corner of the city, from 88th Street to the city limits, east of Stony Island Avenue . . . Has 25,572 registered voters, half white, but Hispanics are a majority of the population . . . Turnout on Feb. 24 was just 9,549, but Garcia beat Emanuel 47.3-37.8 percent . . . Alderman John Pope is with Emanuel, who he always supports in the City Council . . . He is in a runoff with Susan Sadlowski Garza, getting only 44 percent in the municipal election. Outlook: Garcia will win 55-45, but Pope will squeak in.

12th Ward: Far Southwest Side, heavily Mexican American . . . Garcia once was the state senator from the area . . . Has 17,930 registered votes, but turnout was only 4,996 . . . Alderman George Cardenas was unopposed . . . Garcia won 67-26 over Emanuel, in a turnout of 4,996. He needs 75 percent of the vote.

13th Ward: The home of Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan, the Democratic committeeman, around Midway Airport . . . The ward is more than half Hispanic, but Alderman Marty Quinn was unopposed . . . Emanuel beat Garcia 52.0-36.4 percent (5,787-4.046) . . . The ward has 23,932 registered votes, but Feb. 24 turnout was 11,257 . . . White voters came out. Madigan will deliver 55-45 for the mayor.

14th Ward: How does a white alderman survive in a 90 percent Hispanic ward? Simple: Be Ed Burke and have an $8 million campaign fund . . . Located west of the old Back of the Yards neighborhood . . . 47-year incumbent Burke was unopposed . . . The ward has 17,822 registered voters, and turnout on Feb. 24 was 6,068 . . . Garcia beat Emanuel 3,139-2,287 (52.2-38.0 percent) . . . Burke will deliver 35 percent to the mayor in the runoff.

15th Ward: Near Southwest Side, created from parts of former black wards . . . Overwhelmingly Mexican American . . . Democratic Committeeman Ray Lopez got 47 percent of the vote for alderman and backed Emanuel, who lost ward 51.3-30.1 percent . . . Lopez faces pro-Garcia Rafael Yanez in the runoff . . . The ward has 18,233 registered voters, with 4,670 ballots cast . . . Garcia will get 65 percent of the vote, and Lopez will lose.

22nd Ward: Southwest Side, east of Cicero Avenue, nearly all Mexican American . . . Incumbent Ric Munoz has been the alderman since 1993 and is a vociferous Emanuel critic and a longtime buddy of Garcia . . . Emanuel’s forces fielded three opponents, but Munoz won with 57 percent of the vote . . . The ward has 18,907 registered voters, and turnout was 5,357 . . . Garcia won 69.7-21.2 percent, and he’ll get 75 percent of the vote.

25th Ward: Near West Side, once the bailiwick of Vito Marzullo . . . Went predominantly Hispanic during Harold Washington’s tenure . . . The 19-year incumbent is Danny Solis, generally pro-Emanuel, who scraped out a 51 percent win . . . Mostly Mexican American . . . The ward has 25,194 registered voters, and 7,777 turned out . . . Garcia won the ward 56.1-33.3 percent, getting 4,301 votes. Garcia will win, but he won’t get much over 60 percent of the vote.

26th Ward: Near North Side . . . Once the base of U.S. Representative Luis Gutierrez, who endorsed Emanuel . . . Puerto Rican majority . . . The incumbent is Roberto Maldonado, a former county commissioner and an Emanuel flunky . . . Maldonado squeaked to a 52 percent win on Feb. 24 . . . The ward has 24,709 registered voters, but only 6,847 votes were cast on Feb. 24 . . . Garcia won the ward 3,639-2,315 (with 54 percent of the vote) . . . Garcia needs 65 percent of the vote in the ward.

30th Ward: Ariel Reboyras is the alderman in the largely Puerto Rican Belmont-Cragin ward . . . He always votes with the mayor, and he was unopposed . . . The ward has 21,339 registered votes, and turnout was 5,121 . . . Garcia defeated Emanuel 2,478-2,006 (with 48.9 percent of the vote), not an impressive win. Garcia needs two-thirds of the vote on April 7.

31st Ward: Once dominated by Tom Keane, the Avondale-area ward is now (but may not be much longer) the fiefdom of Joe Berrios (the county assessor, county Democratic Party chairman and ward committeeman) and Ray Suarez, who has been the alderman since 1991 . . . Mexican Americans don’t run well in Puerto Rican areas . . . Berrios once delivered whopping votes for his candidates, who were Emanuel and Suarez, but not on Feb. 24 . . . Emanuel lost to Garcia 2,366-2,985 (51.2-40.6 percent), and Suarez, with $1.2 million in his fund, got just 2,769 votes (48 percent of the total), forcing a runoff with Spanish-language television broadcaster Milly Santiago . . . The ward has 21,429 registered voters, and turnout was 5,899. . . Berrios was humiliated by 2014 primary loss of his daughter Toni Berrios for state representative . . . A 65 percent vote for Garcia will bring in Santiago . . . Tough times ahead for Joe Berrios.

33rd Ward: In the upscale North Ravenswood ward, with a large Hispanic population, Alderman Dick Mell was long known as “Old Gringo . . . He’s retired, and his successor, his daughter Deb Mell, has no “Gringo” touch . . . She won her first term with 4,092 votes (50.2 percent of the total), barely avoiding a runoff . . . The ward has 22,909 registered voters, and turnout was 8,376 . . . Garcia won 4,074-3,316 . . . Will Dick Mell make any effort for Emanuel?

35th Ward: Alderman Rey Colon’s 2014 DUI arrest was his undoing, although he had been unraveling for years . . . He lost to 26-year-old newcomer Carlos Ramirez-Rosa 67-33 percent . . . The Belmont-Milwaukee area ward has 21,846 registered voters, and turnout was 6,309 . . . Garcia won 3,561-2,098 (with 57.1 percent of the vote), and he needs 70 percent.

36th Ward: The new, convoluted ward takes in various Hispanic areas south of Belmont Avenue and north of Fullerton Avenue . . . The Berrios-Suarez organization is backing Omar Aquino, while Gil Villegas is supported by Berrios rival Luis Arroyo, a state representative . . . Aquino topped Villegas 2,118-1,944, with 1,892 votes to others . . . The ward has 21,291 registered voters, and turnout was 6,097 . . . Garcia won 2,720-2,370 . . . If Aquino sticks with Emanuel, that could be his undoing. Edge to Garcia and Villegas.

The bottom line is, Hispanics comprised roughly 20 percent of the Feb. 24 voters, and Garcia got 48,865 (50.4 percent) of those votes. To prevail in the runoff, Garcia must get 60 to 65 percent of the Hispanic vote, and it must surge to the 125,000-135,000 level. Despite “Rahm Rage,” a majority, not much above 52 or 53 percent of the black and white voters (80 percent of the turnout), will stick with the mayor. Many will vote for Chuy because they detest Rahm, but the real battle will be fought on Hispanic turf. If Garcia wins his base 2-1, he’s the next mayor.

This article was originally posted on the website.