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Airbags

The results of Chicago's elections, likely the last election of the Daley the Second regime, are in and the initial indication is that the city's labor unions have proven they are the mightiest organizing machines in the city. No political organization — whether the Regular Democratic Organization, the Hispanic Democratic Organization or any number of individual candidate organizations, could match what labor did.

I don't necessarily buy that — especially given all the chest-thumping some union officials engaged in last year — but that this was a landmark election is unquestionable.

I know this is bad form, but man oh man did I take pleasure in getting the spread in the Cappelman-Shiller fight in the 46th Ward right on the nose. So many people were talking so much trash about my supposed incompetence that it felt really good to be oh so right and they be oh so wrong. That said, Cappelman was a great candidate and although I also respect Helen Shiller, he would've been a good change for the ward. Frankly, his campaign was weighed down by an early negativity toward Shiller that almost immediately polarized the race — middle of the road voters are turned off by early negativity on a mildly popular incumbent, because it implies that if they don't hate the incumbent, they're fools, and given Shiller's fundraising and organizational advantage, that spelled doom for her opponent. (I know I'm not supposed gloat, be humble and all that, but whatever. Ha ha, I was right).

On the other hand, I got several races embarrassingly wrong (how about my prediction for the City Clerk's race? Yikes) so at the end of the day it all equals out.

Speaking in terms of surprises, Brendan Reilly's victory over Burton Natarus has been way overblown. Natarus was a highly vulnerable candidate, and as soon as the field was definitively narrowed to two, I had no doubt that Natarus would lose. Here's a guy who's been in a high-turnover, wealthy ward for over 30 years and never been able to crack 56 percent. It was only a matter of time, and given Reilly's prodigious ability to raise money and pitch-perfect campaign message, Natarus was toast. Monetary contributions notwithstanding — labor makes big money donations to candidates every cycle — this victory had everything to do with Natarus's incompetence and Reilly's skilled campaigning. Think about Reilly: a young, charismatic campaigner who now has as his political fundraising base the businesses center of one of the wealthiest cities on Earth. Look for this guy to make noise in Illinois and national Democratic Party politics, and if you're that kind of person, hitch your wagon to his star.

Similarly, Scott Waguespack's campaign, although benefiting from financial contributions, was all about Waguespack's early door-to-door campaigning and a somewhat unpopular incumbent to go with a high-turnover ward (which weakens the incumbent relative to low-turnover ward incumbents). The city's unions have huge membership in the residential areas, but not in places like the 32nd anymore. Bucktown and West Lakeview especially don't have many SEIU and UFCW members, who tend to be lower-middle and lower-income. I was surprised that Scott didn't win outright, but I was more surprised when the third candidate in that race, Catherine Czarnyny, decided to endorse Matlak over Waguespack. Given the campaign rhetoric — "The Ward Needs Change" — that move is wholly illogical. If Czarnyny is making a political calculation, for example that Waguespack would be harder to beat in four years than a barely-clinging-to-elective-life Matlak, then that is a cynical move that would prove difficult to get past in any future run.

The Sandi Jackson-Darcel Beavers race in the far South Side 7th Ward defied my expectations when Jackson won in a relative blowout. So much for former Alderman and current County Commissioner William Beavers' dynasty-building gambit. The Jackson family name and organization was simply too sophisticated and too brutal for a more homespun effort to handle. Still, by all accounts Darcel Beavers is a hard worker and affable, so it's hard to be too excited here.

Where labor had a definitive impact was in the wide-open 15th Ward, where eminently likable community activist and UFCW member Toni Foulkes came in first in the voting with a commanding 35 percent of the vote. Foulkes' campaign was almost completely funded by SEIU and UFCW, and her campaign personnel were essentially union staffers. However, the on-the-ground effort is more attributable to the tireless organizing of Chicago ACORN, one of the largest and most effective ACORN chapters in the nation. Englewood is ACORN's base and they can activate a very large organization there almost immediately. Foulkes, who works at a Jewel-Osco bakery and has been organizing around living wage, poverty, predatory lending and fair housing issues for years in her home neighborhood of Englewood, is smart, charismatic and would be a jewel in the City Council. ACORN was somewhat burned by the last candidate they sponsored, retired alderman Ted Thomas, who steadily drifted away from the progressive line on many issues and sided with Mayor Daley. Anything is possible, but talk to Toni Foulkes and you can see the passion for social justice in her eyes and the timbre of her voice.

Similarly, Alderman Howard Brookins, Jr. suffered in the face of labor's efforts, although even he was able to avoid an outright loss and still has a chance to hold on. Considering Brookins helped spark the labor-council war with his efforts to bring a Wal-Mart to his ward, that he was able secure a run-off where he has an even chance of pulling it out is telling. Alderman Emma Mitts, labor's archnemesis, won handily with no labor-backed candidate in her ward.

And what happened to the labor tidal wave in the 49th Ward? Joe Moore, who put his name and neck on the line by writing and leading the fight for the Big Box Living Wage Ordinance, was narrowly forced into a run-off despite outspending his opponents. That Moore should have been forsaken is inexcusable in a very winnable race. To be an electoral power you can't just pick off weak incumbents, you have to defend your allies when they're in trouble, too. Moore should win the run-off easily, but the added expense of both money and political capital will damage his effectiveness in the Council and the Ward. For such a staunch ally, that's unfortunate.

Similarly, unions poured enormous cash and resources against George Cardenas in the TKth Ward only to see him score 60 percent of the vote against several challengers, including their chosen candidate Carina Sanchez.

So, it wasn't a labor blowout by any means — and relative to some of the bold predictions some union officials were making as late as October and November of last year, it was disappointing. That doesn't demean the enormous effort expended by union staff and membership on the streets. They were out in force, showing many of the Democratic Regulars what real organizing is. The show of force certainly put real fear into the hearts of many aldermen, and that, ultimately, was the point. By the same token, even in some races where all the stops were pulled, even marginally popular incumbents were able to beat back assaults and live to fight another day.

NEXT WEEK: Richard M. Daley, His Elective Majesty

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Comments

laborpol / March 7, 2007 10:11 PM

After the miserable predictions you made you actually have the nuts to write that labor didn't accomplish much Tuesday?

You must be kidding me. Open your eyes buddy. This is the most run-offs in the history of chicago politics. None of this would have been possible without labor support and workers.

Labor only lost one race and that was in the 12th ward with a young, novice candidate in a very low turnout community. Whether labor was the deciding factor in each and everyone of these races is not the point.

What matters is that labor put enough races in play to stretch the resources of the Mayor giving strong grassroots candidates like Scott Wags in the 32nd ward and Naisy Doalr in the 50th ward a chance to get to runoffs.

And what about the 3rd ward where Pat Dowell will be taking Dorothy "the hat" Tillman to a runoff . Pat ran against Tillamnin 2003 and missed a runoff by a considerable bit. Don't you think labor might have made the difference there?

What about the 15th, 16th and 21st wards that will all feature runoffs with rank and file union members? Do ya think labor had an impact on those races?

As far as not beating incumbents outright. Even Bob Fioretti who spent nearly $500,000 against incumbent Madeline Haithcock will be going to a runoff. The power of incumbency is enourmous but most of the alderman who are in runoffs will be defeated. Look at past results. 75% of incumbents that are taken to runoffs lose.

And as far as Sandi Jackson and Brendan Riley go just ask them if they think labor played a role in their impressive victories. Riley just returned from the Winter meeting of the AFL-CIO in Las Vegas where he layed out his pro labor agenda and pledged his support for the working men and women of Chicago.

For the first time in a very long time there is a power other than Mayor Daley for aldermen to go to and thankfully that power is represented by the labor movement.
It is clear you are not much more than a casual observer of politics. True political professionals know what happend last Tuesday and are impressed by labor's effort. Also, realize that this is the first time labor has participated in the aldermanic elections in any meaningful way.

Imagine what we can do once we get this experience under our belts.

Wake up and smell the coffee brother. Ther is a new sheriff in town and his name is organized labor.

Richard F Carnahan / March 8, 2007 12:46 AM

I agree with you for the most part brother. I guess I didn't state that firmly enough. But the reality is that generally weak incumbents were picked off; remember the original "Opposition 2007" plan that was going to wipe out 10 to 15 alderman or more? There was a lot of tough talk then and an inability to even take on some of those aldermen.

Nevertheless, as I stated several times in the column--including in the very first paragraph--labor proved they could out-organize anybody. There's no question to that and if you go back and read my many columns on the matter, you'll know my opinion on all things labor.

And I wrote in there of labor's huge effort and was very impressed with it. That's not the point. The point is that not everything could be attributed to labor's efforts--there were pre-existing conditions, too. And there were spots where labor did not perform up to expectations.

Surely you can recognize that. You betray your own point when you insist on orthodoxy from all commentators--you completely disregarded the three or four instances just in this column where I point out the huge effort and obvious primacy organized labor's political operation demonstrated. That you skipped right past that and zeroed in on the few instances where I suggested some moderation in that view makes the rest of what you say harder to swallow.

In other words, I'm with you brother. Take it easy.

JP Paulus / March 8, 2007 7:41 AM

Congratulations on the rght-on prediction!

The Anti-Shiller movement has at the very least taken a break...

whatthehelen(dot)com is down, and the buenaparkneighbors message board has slowed way down.

i have been telling them all long what you said -- the negativity turns away potential anti-Shiller voters.

Please note that thus far, the Anti-Shiller movement has been tied to the Uptown Chicago Commission...its own little machne that has been trying since at least 1999 to oust Shiller.

They fil to reach out to the few in the subsidzed housing bulding that can (and have) crossed over away from SHiller.

They don't seem to believe there s such a voter, and refuse to meet with anyone who could help them bridge that gap.

They say Shiller causes polarization, but as you show, they are currently A cause as well.

Here's hoping there's real change soon...

irishpirate / March 8, 2007 9:45 AM

Richard,

Thppppppt. There I feel better now. You called it. Even a broken clock is right twice a day. Not that I am bitter or anything. Not me.

JP,

who could help the UCC bridge the gap? Let me guess. You!?

There are two Rogers Park elections coming up. Both incumbents need to go. Pick your ward and work for change there......you do live there after all.

Shiller outspent Cappleman at least 2 to 1. Possibly upwards of 3 to 1. Won't know until the state forms are filed. I don't think that had a huge impact.

I think two factors really mattered. First, low turnout. If the turnout had gone from 37 to 42 or 43 percent Shiller likely would have lost. I thought we were going to get that type of turnout. Outside a few southwest side wards high turnout in an aldermanic election is almost unheard of.

Until there is a real election for mayor I don't think we are going to see high turnout in aldermanic races.

Second I think endorsements helped Shiller. Daley's in particular. People love the little guy. Mayor Fredo has large coattails. Unless you get a real buffoon like Natarus it is very difficult to take on a long term incumbent. Even Stone and Moore almost avoided runoffs. Unfreakingbelievable.

I can't empirically prove it but I doubt the "gay leader" endorsements had much of an impact. The gay vote is so spread throughout the ward that it is difficult to measure.

Shiller won the low income subsidized buildings overwhelmingly. Cappleman won the low rise condo owning areas. In some precincts it was 8 to 1 in favor of one candidate or the other.

The area to concentrate on in the next election is the high rises along the lakefront in Lakeview and south of Montrose.

Get that area to split evenly or slightly for the opponent and Shiller is toast.

Given her Captain Queeg like appearance on Chicago Tonight she may not run again anyway.

This election clearly took a toll on her. I am waiting to see the final campaign finance disclosures. Over at What the Helen someone posted something about Shiller taking out a "line of credit" on her residence/apartment building.

Personally, I hope she went way into debt in the campaign. Not that I am bitter or anything.

ARRRRRRRGH

anthony / March 9, 2007 1:55 PM

We'll see how labor stacks up after the run-offs. As for labor being a superpower..........that can't be judged after an election with miserable turnout.

laborpol / March 9, 2007 9:49 PM

What do you mean it can't be judged because turnout was "miserable"? Mayor Daley has been repeatedly reelected with "miserable" turnout, yet he is considered the most powerful big city mayor in America.

If you knew anything about campaigns you would understand that it is the top of the ticket that drives turnout not the bottom. HDO won elections with "miserable" turnout and they they were considered the power brokers for several election cycles.

Get over yourself buddy. If you want higher turnouts find a legitimate challenger to the Mayor. Until then, give Labor the credit they deserve.

Richard F Carnahan / March 9, 2007 11:11 PM

Laborpol is right on this one--as soon as Jesse and Luis said they would pass on the Mayor's race, everybody--candidates, the Regulars, the HDO, and SEIU--adapted campaign strategy to a low-turnout election. Everybody was expecting low turnout and the strategy was not to add new voters but to get your voters out.

By the way, Laborpol, of the 11 runoffs you are touting, 3 involve your endorsed candidates (Chandler, Rey Colon, and Joe Moore) and one was in a race where you made no endorsement (2nd). That leaves 7. One of those 7, the 50th, your candidate barely managed double digits. That leaves 6. In 2003, there were 4, a lower-turnout election with an even less viable mayoral opponent.

I bring this up not because I disagree with you fundamentally in any way--I stated several times in this column and in my comments that labor--by which you and I both mean, really, SEIU and UFCW primarily--really flexed their muscle and proved they could out organize anybody.

I bring it up to calm you down a bit and discuss things objectively, lest you undermine your own position.

anthony / March 10, 2007 4:47 AM

Excuse me but Jesse and Luis didn't get into the race after repeatedly polling registered voters in the city about who would win the election. They didn't poll probable voters....Daley wins if 750,000 vote or 250,000 vote and if you don't belive that im sure you'll get a chance in another 4 years. As for labor, they beat incompetent alderman. A majority of voters didn't wake up and say "I'm with the unions."
On the other hand labor gets a hand for getting their vote out ....that's what wins elections! But for them to brag about their strenght and then tell me how weak Daley is with such low turnout is ...........

Richard F Carnahan / March 10, 2007 11:41 AM

Good point, Anthony.

Richard F Carnahan / March 10, 2007 12:06 PM

Oh, and beside her bad vote on BBLW, Haithcock has been a friend to UNITE-HERE on the Congress Hotel issues.

laborpol / March 10, 2007 3:03 PM

I must, once again, respectfully point out that you have very little inside knowledge of what really happened on February 27th. Bernie Stone, Vi Daley and Madeline Haithcock were all taken to runoffs becasue organized labor ran concerted negative campaigns against them. SEIU did not endorse a candidate in the 5oth Ward but did spent nearly $100,000 running negative message against Bernie Stone. SEIU did the same to Vi Daley and HERE did likewise to Madeline Haithcock.

If you to ask those incumbents why they are in runoffs right now I am certain they would tell you it was the negative attacks against them that did it.

We purposely put little resource into Joe Moore knowing that he would be fine even if he went to a runoff. Rey Colon is another issue and will be dealt with accordingly.

It is important that you know what REALLY happened and why ther are so many runoffs. Just becasue we didn't endorse a candidate in a race doesn't mean that we didn't have an impact on the final outcome.

Know you should do a new count on your little list brother and count up how many runoffs Labor created.

Just try and get it right this time. Bye, Bye

laborpol / March 10, 2007 3:05 PM

I must, once again, respectfully point out that you have very little inside knowledge of what really happened on February 27th. Bernie Stone, Vi Daley and Madeline Haithcock were all taken to runoffs becasue organized labor ran concerted negative campaigns against them. SEIU did not endorse a candidate in the 5oth Ward but did spent nearly $100,000 running negative message against Bernie Stone. SEIU did the same to Vi Daley and HERE did likewise to Madeline Haithcock.

If you to ask those incumbents why they are in runoffs right now I am certain they would tell you it was the negative attacks against them that did it.

We purposely put little resource into Joe Moore knowing that he would be fine even if he went to a runoff. Rey Colon is another issue and will be dealt with accordingly.

It is important that you know what REALLY happened and why ther are so many runoffs. Just becasue we didn't endorse a candidate in a race doesn't mean that we didn't have an impact on the final outcome.

Now you should do a new count on your little list brother and count up how many runoffs Labor created.

Just try and get it right this time. Bye, Bye

aborpol / March 10, 2007 3:31 PM

I never said the Mayor was politically weak. Quite to the contrary, our citywide polling shows that he is very popular ( as did the vote last Tuesday).

Our polling also showed that people wanted to return some checks and balances to city government in the form of a more independent city council. I think that message is being sent and will lead to most of the incumbents that are in runoffs losing April 17th. That's the facts jack. Take it to the bank brothers and sisters. bye again

Kevin / March 10, 2007 6:03 PM

The thing about the race in the 46th Ward is how it split. IrishPirate is right that Cappleman too the south of Montrose vote. Perhaps those people would be happier if they could get their slice of the lakefront annexed into Tom Tunney's ward?

As for the "gay leader" endorsement, I believe that Shiller was endorsed by the Chicago Free Press. I found the arguments that she was a homophobe and anti-gay particularily insulting, especially since she has done so much to stand up for a community of people not only in the ward, but in the state and in national politics, that a scant 20 years ago was completely marginalized. Stockholm syndrome, I guess.

I voted for Shiller, but could have been pursuded to vote for her opposition if his campaign wasn't based on packing up and shipping out the powerless and vulnerable people in this ward. Cappleman not only had no new ideas, the few that he did have were based on the failed policies of Washington: what was that shit on Chicago Tonight about HUD standards? The last place I would turn to for guidance on how to deal with poverty and housing is the federal government. He came off as a jackass on channel 11, and he sounded even less coherent when he tried to convince me to vote for him at the Wilson L stop.

Richard F Carnahan / March 10, 2007 7:12 PM

Jerry, You guys did very well, and kudos indeed. I don't doubt you felt Moore was safe. The point is that his is one of the runoffs you're counting, as were Chandlers and Colons. Even if you didn't endorse anyone in 50th, the CFL did and this was about labor, not just SEIU.

All that said, seriously, I think you are overreacting a bit, at least to the original column. There can be no doubt that labor was the clear prime force in this election. I still think its fair to point out that given some of the proclamations of late last year, 7 or 8 runoffs you could reasonably take credit for at the most, when in a very non-competitive election in 2003 there were 4 indicates there was some overstatements made immediately after the election about this being an absolute sweep for organized labor. That's all.

Again, like I said, ultimately the goal of flexing some muscle and putting a scare into incumbents was achieved, if the high benchmarks set by some of the talk last year was not.

SamHam / March 11, 2007 2:34 PM

On the 46th Ward. Let me start off by saying that I love Helen Shiller and think she is one of the best alderman ever in this city. That said, I think it is clear that the results say a lot about her. I find it very hard to believe that someone as incoherent and bland as Cappleman actually got any votes for him. Cappleman ran an implicitly racist campaign that included a piece of literature asking voters to "fear your 46th ward neighbor", and still got 47 percent of the vote. The only explanation is that a very large percentage of the ward really does have a probem with Helen Shiller.

SamHam / March 11, 2007 2:35 PM

On the 46th Ward. Let me start off by saying that I love Helen Shiller and think she is one of the best alderman ever in this city. That said, I think it is clear that the results say a lot about her. I find it very hard to believe that someone as incoherent and bland as Cappleman actually got any votes for him. Cappleman ran an implicitly racist campaign that included a piece of literature asking voters to "fear your 46th ward neighbor", and still got 47 percent of the vote. The only explanation is that a very large percentage of the ward really does have a problem with Helen Shiller.

SamHam / March 11, 2007 2:37 PM

On the 46th Ward. Let me start off by saying that I love Helen Shiller and think she is one of the best alderman ever in this city. That said, I think it is clear that the results say a lot about her. I find it very hard to believe that someone as incoherent and bland as Cappleman actually got any votes for him. Cappleman ran an implicitly racist campaign that included a piece of literature asking voters to "fear your 46th ward neighbor", and still got 47 percent of the vote. The only explanation is that a very large percentage of the ward really does have a problem with Helen Shiller. As for Irish Pirate's belief that a larger turnout would have meant more votes for Cappleman, thankfully that is misplaced. The election-day polling showed that the people who stayed home were Shiller supporters who chose not to go to the polls to punish her for her closeness to Daley.

Lake View / March 11, 2007 2:38 PM

On the 46th Ward. Let me start off by saying that I love Helen Shiller and think she is one of the best alderman ever in this city. That said, I think it is clear that the results say a lot about her. I find it very hard to believe that someone as incoherent and bland as Cappleman actually got any votes for him. Cappleman ran an implicitly racist campaign that included a piece of literature asking voters to "fear your 46th ward neighbor", and still got 47 percent of the vote. The only explanation is that a very large percentage of the ward really does have a problem with Helen Shiller. As for Irish Pirate's belief that a larger turnout would have meant more votes for Cappleman, thankfully that is misplaced. The election-day polling showed that the people who stayed home were Shiller supporters who chose not to go to the polls to punish her for her closeness to Daley.

laborpol / March 11, 2007 2:48 PM

What pronouncements are you refering to Richard? I didn't make any predictions on how many seats would turnover. Did someone else from the labor movement do so without me knowing? You sound more and more like an RDO precinct captain. Who do you work for buddy?

If seven or eight seats turnover in the council (and that seems increasingly likely) that will be more than double the turnover most pundits predicted before the election. I thought it would be extremely difficult to take more that five seats so I don't know where you get these imagined boasts by labor leaders.

BTW, HDO never won more than two elections in any given election. If labor outperforms them I hope you and your friends in the media give Labor the same coverage HDO has recieved over the years.

I have an idea. Why don't you and I have a public wager right here on your glorious little blog. Lets both announce our election predictions for all to see. If I win, you have to give me your column here on Gapers Block. What about that?

You name what you want if I lose. This will be fun don't you think. Now that you know who I am you should tell all your readers who you are a precinct captain for. Which committeeman is your boos brother? If you choose to accept this challenge you know where to find me. Have a nice day.

Jack / March 12, 2007 11:08 AM

Still love the blog. Couple of things:
1. Haithcock was not friendly to HERE on the Congress Hotel, which is why a couple of hundred of us were walking the picket line at a Dump Madeline rally.
2. Much of the anti-Helen Schiller crowd is fairly racist or at least anti-poor. It's an interesting testament to the political ramifications of gentrification
3. One election that's not getting a lot of attention is Munoz's win in the 22nd ward. He held off a Chamber of Commerce ally and a HDO backed candidate and one fairly handily. I think his win, coupled with his win for state committeeman for the 4th Congressional District over Cardenas makes the 2008 race for Luis's congressional seat even more interesting.
Sorry there aren't any insults or wagers. And for full disclosure, I've door knocked for Pat Dowell, Ric Munoz, and Eddie Garza for State Senate.

RfC / March 12, 2007 1:42 PM

Thanks for the comments Jack.

Jerry, I have little desire to make a wager with you. Besides, which elections do you want to prognosticate on? I have a feeling we'd have little difference of opinion on the runoffs.

Besides, I have too much respect and admiration for what your state council members and the rest of Chicago's labor movement did on February 27 to put myself in the position of opposing you on it. If I took your bet, the implication would be that I'm somehow "not on your side," which, despite a slight difference of opinion on degrees, I am. On your side. Bad sentence.

Anyway, SEIU and other union members gave of their time and effort and dues money to make Chicago more union-friendly, and if they made it any more friendly to working people then they succeeded, and I'm thrilled about that. The number one criticism I get for this column is that I'm supposedly "blindly" pro-union. But this city needs to work for working people, and these elections took a good step in that direction.

Besides, I lease this space, I don't own it, so its not mine to give away.

However, I will do this as an act of working man solidarity. I will invite you, as the operational head of one of the largest and politically most influential organizations in Illinois, to be a contributor to the column. Send along predictions, thoughts, etc. In other words, how about a timeshare?

In the interest of fairness, maybe I'll find some Chamber of Commerce goon to kick in occasionally, too.

You obviously feel the need to set the record straight, so here's your chance.

We can even post our election predictions side by side, sans wager, and see how they hold up.

laborpol / March 12, 2007 10:38 PM

That is a very magnanimous offer brother. I wasn't trully bent about your comments, just having a bit of fun.

I go up against the Regulars so often it is second nature now. Its difficult being civil when you are in the middle of a campaign.

I do believe you are relatively "union friendly" . All the more reason though to hold you to a higher standard and insist that the record is straight somewhere out there.

It would probably be best for me not to post my predictions publicly. No reason to show my hand more than I already have. I would be happy to give you regular updates on the progress of our campaigns.

Best of luck and good nite.

jack / March 13, 2007 10:19 PM

hey, is laborpol Hulk Hogan, brother

 

About the Author(s)

Richard F. Carnahan is a true South Side Sox fan who's played a bit part in Chicago politics more than once over the years. Contact him at rfc@gapersblock.com.

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