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Chicago After Daley Tue Jan 04 2011

Del Valle Notches Two Progressive Endorsements

In further proof that 2011 is not an analogue of 1983 or 1987, but in some ways bears closer resemblance to 1979, City Clerk and former state senator Miguel Del Valle has garnered the endorsement of two political organizations with strong independent/reformer roots, especially in the critical lakefront wards, namely the Independent Voters of Illinois (IVI-IPO) and the Northside chapter of Democracy for America ("DFA"). After winning the official backing of IVI-IPO's board last week, Del Valle was endorsed handily by the lakefront DFA group last night, with only Carol Moseley Braun, who appeared and spoke before the group earlier in the evening, showing any other support.

IVI-IPO, the granddaddy of the city's "anti-machine" forces, is down from its peak years and typically does not deliver the "independent precinct" work component of its name on a widespread basis as it did decades ago. However, it still claims approximately 500 dues-paying members, and its exhaustive issue questionnaires, its requirement that candidates submit for interview and questioning before general membership, and its insistent adherence to sometimes laborious parliamentary process give its approval gravitas. Because its multiracial membership still draws largely from the north lakefront Chicago wards, and from Hyde Park, IVI-IPO's endorsement is usually a bellwether of liberal activist sentiment. The group does typically distribute 100,000 or more circulars and sample ballots, many door-to-door, and takes out print ads, primarily in neighborhoods and publications where its name has weight for voters, to publicize its endorsements.

DFA, spawned from Howard Dean's exhortation that grassroots Democrats get involved in local contests, not just presidential races, has one its most active chapters in the country on Chicago's north side. Its monthly meetings, which have moved throughout various venues from Foster to Belmont, regularly draw 50-100 attendees; last night was a fairly full house despite frigid weather and short notice after a holiday weekend. Unlike some organizations, voting membership in Northside DFA requires not just paying dues, but working on campaigns for DFA-endorsed candidates, so a nod by the group indicates a candidate will gain a quantum of supporters who will actually ring doorbells, make phone calls, and stuff envelopes.

For the record, I have been a member of both IVI-IPO and DFA, but did not vote in either group's decision or advocate for or against any candidate.

Facile analysis of the mayoral race has variously postulated that the lakefront votes would go to Rahm Emanuel, former congressman for the stretch from Lincoln Park north to Irving Park, with strong Obama ties, or to Carol Moseley Braun, the putative claimant to the "Washington coalition" mantle who enjoyed strong support from white Chicago liberals in her 1992 Senate primary and general election victories. The decisions of the two predominantly-white, predominantly-liberal groups in favor of the Latino Del Valle suggest that the picture is more complex, and unofficial comments indicated that both Emanuel and Moseley Braun have some work to do to woo the good-government set.

The IVI-IPO announced its endorsement of Del Valle yesterday. According to Del Valle's website, IVI-IPO State Chair Alonso Zaragoza declared at a press conference that "Miguel del Valle is the only progressive candidate in the field."

The DFA was not so absolutist, with a number of speakers in discussion acknowledging, in particular, Mosely Braun's progressive voting record. and at least one saying he supported Emanuel. While not one person at the DFA session spoke in favor of Chico (and one speaker said the former schools chief was "full of [it]" for saying he'd never gotten paid for public service), Emanuel came in for the harshest words, with one group leader referring to Emanuel as "Voldemort" and another simply referring to "he who shall not be named" (tho neither said why). By contrast, multiple speakers lauded Del Valle as a proven administrator and the candidate with the least ethical or other baggage, "squeaky clean." Acknowledging Del Valle's apparent position as trailing in polls and money, supporters urged their colleagues to avoid the circularity of "viability" arguments and to instead take a stand that would communicate to a larger audience why Del Valle should be mayor. This argument was persuasive, with nearly 90% voting to endorse.

This theme of building better public decisionmaking through more and better facts accorded with the earlier, unrelated remarks of 49th Ward alderman Joe Moore, who, in describing his ward's participatory budgeting process for approximately $1M of discretionary capital funds, said, "If you give people enough information, and time to thoughtfully deliberate, they make pretty good decisions."

The DFA group also voted to endorse Michele Smith for alderman in the 43rd Ward, whereas IVI-IPO had voted to endorse Chuck Eastwood.


Aviva Patt / January 4, 2011 9:40 PM

I have no dispute with Jeff's analysis, but I would like to make a correction regarding IVI-IPO's demographics. IVI-IPO is not a "predominately" white organization. IVI-IPO has members (between 500-800 in the past couple of years) in 46 of Chicago's 50 wards. Less than 40% of our members live on the north lakefront or far northwest sides of Chicago; some of them, of course, are people of color. About 40% live in the predominately African-American wards of the South and West sides, 12% in the Hispanic wards on the Northwest and Southwest sides, and the remainder in the suburbs (north, west and south) or downstate.

Our Board of Directors is multi-racial as well, with 60% of the current Board and 2/3 of the officers people of color.

I know that old stereotypes take a long time to die, but IVI-IPO ceased to be a white, lake-front organization many years ago and I would hope people would update their knowledge.

Alonso Zaragoza / January 5, 2011 12:02 AM

Jeff, to be fair to the other mayoral candidates that we interviewed, what I meant to say was that "Miguel Del Valle is the best progressive candidate in the field".

Jeff Smith / January 5, 2011 1:06 AM

Aviva, I termed IVI-IPO "multiracial" and am both aware and respectful of its longstanding inclusiveness. I also termed it "predominantly" white, in the sense of the most frequent characteristic, not implying "exclusively" or even "overwhelmingly." A group can be multiracial, yet one group within that diversity can still account for a plurality.

I also said that the group draws "largely" from the lakefront (and Hyde Park) and I stand by that. Notwithstanding members in 46 wards, I would bet -- based not not on ancient stereotypes but on numerous events and meetings attended in 2009 and 2010 -- that membership is stronger in some areas than others, and that your top 10 wards account for half the City membership. There's nothing wrong with that. Every group has a heritage and a base, and IVI's is one to be proud of.

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