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The Mechanics
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Election 2015 Thu Feb 19 2015

Why is Willie Wilson Polling So Well?

A recent poll for the mayor's race shows Mayor Rahm Emanuel polling at 49.2 percent, Jesus "Chuy" Garcia at 23 percent, Willie Wilson at 14.4 percent, Ald. Bob Fioretti at 8.6 percent and William "Dock" Walls at 4.9 percent. The only really surprising part of this poll is Emanuel polling above 40 percent since quite a few polls showed him polling below that.

The big question people have is, why is Willie Wilson polling higher than Bob Fioretti?

Fioretti never really had a chance of even coming in second after it was rumored Karen Lewis would be running for mayor. A majority of Chicago's progressives would have voted for Lewis if she had run for mayor. After she ruled out a run for mayor due to her brain cancer diagnosis, Garcia became the candidate progressives rallied around, particularly after the endorsement from Lewis and the Chicago Teachers Union.

It is entirely possible that, in a year in which Chicago voters tired of Emanuel had not preemptively thrown their weight around Lewis as a candidate, Fioretti would have a better chance of at least coming in second, if not actually winning the election.

While Garcia and Fioretti both have stories of coming from humble backgrounds to be politicians -- Garcia was born in Mexico and his father was a day laborer, Fioretti was born and raised on the South Side and had a father who immigrated from Italy -- Wilson has a story that is the ultimate up-by-the-bootstraps narrative.

Wilson, as the biography on his campaign website puts it, is the "product of the cotton and sugar cane fields of Louisiana" and comes from one of the more humble beginnings of the candidates. He has gone on to be a successful businessman and the creator of the hit syndicated gospel show "Singsation." Wilson also achieved this success without even a high school diploma.

To many the background of Wilson is inspiring. It is also arguable he is the polar opposite of Emanuel. Emanuel was the son of a doctor and went to New Trier High School before going to Sarah Lawrence College and Northwestern University. Both Garcia and Fioretti attended schools in the University of Illinois system. There are likely many who look at the current mayor as someone who was born into privilege and continues to serve those who are as privileged as him.

While none of Emanuel's challenges were raised with the same kind of background as the mayor, Wilson may be the most relatable candidate to a lot of people -- more so than Garcia, although it can be argued both men are the very embodiment of the American dream.

Wilson also likely appeals to Evangelical Christians in Chicago. In addition to having created "Singsation," Wilson is a very religious man, as are three of the other candidates. Wilson, however, has a website that features Bible verses. During his campaign he held a rally at one of the largest churches in Chicago. While Fioretti and Garcia have made appearances at churches, Wilson is potentially tapping into a group of Chicagoans who may feel excluded by other candidates.

While Wilson polling in third likely comes as a surprise to many who had initially written him off -- myself included -- it certainly can be seen why he appeals to Chicagoans. Whether the momentum he has gained in the past couple of months carries him to actually coming in third on Tuesday remains to be seen.

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Friend of WW / February 19, 2015 4:25 PM

"Actually come in third on tuesday"... I think you mean second. The margin of error on the poll is 3.4%, that makes Willie Wison and Chewey Garcia in a tie for second, not third.

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