Rahm Emanuel nearly swept black neighborhoods in mayoral victory
THIS WEEK BY ART GOLAB AND ABDON M. PALLASCH March 21, 2011 12:48AM
Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM
Rahm Emanuel’s big victory in last month’s mayoral election was so resounding that he carried more than four out of every five precincts, according to a Chicago Sun-Times analysis that offers the first neighborhood-level look at how the mayor’s race was won.
Emanuel came out on top in 2,106 of the city’s 2,570 precincts, the analysis found.
Beyond that, it found that despite the presence in the mayoral election of former U.S. Sen. Carol Moseley Braun, who emerged as the consensus African-American candidate, nearly every majority-black precinct went for Emanuel, whose campaign got a show of support from his former boss, President Obama. That helped Emanuel win 55 percent of the votes — enough to win the mayor’s race outright and avoid a runoff.
Second-place finisher Gery Chico carried 411 precincts, while Miguel del Valle won in 52, and Braun came out on top in only one precinct.
Chico — whose paternal grandparents came from Mexico — carried heavily Mexican-American neighborhoods on the city’s Southwest Side and Southeast Side.
And Chico’s campaign promise to try to avoid cutting pension benefits for city workers in the face of severe budget problems appears to have helped deliver Beverly and Edison Park — home to many police officers, firefighters and other city workers. Emanuel did not make that same campaign promise.
A cluster of largely Puerto Rican precincts helped del Valle, who was born in Puerto Rico, carry his political base of Humboldt Park. It wasn’t quite enough to win him an entire ward in the mayoral voting — but he came close.
Some nearby precincts in which Mexican Americans now outnumber Puerto Ricans went for Chico, the analysis found.
“Other than political party identification, race is the most important clue to voting,” says Dick Simpson, the former alderman who is now a political science professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
Of Braun’s fourth-place showing, Simpson says that despite the common view that “people think it’s mostly because Carol Moseley Braun ran a bad campaign, it’s not clear [U.S. Rep.] Danny Davis or [state Sen. James] Meeks” — who dropped out of the campaign and supported Braun — “would have done much better.”
Simpson says of Emanuel’s ability to carry heavily black neighborhboods, “It is progress to the extent that it is not an automatic race vote. Voters are taking into account who will best take care of their needs.”
The lone precinct carried by Braun was in the Fuller Park neighborhood around 43rd Street and Wentworth Avenue on the South Side. Most of its voters live in the Minnie Riperton apartments, a Chicago Housing Authority senior citizens mid-rise complex.
Among them: David Whitehead, 71, a retiree who was a frequent — and unsuccessful — candidate for alderman and other public offices in the1980s and 1990s, including a loss in a 1996 Illinois Senate race to Obama.
Whitehead says he worked to get out the vote for Braun at the Riperton complex.
“I told people that, with my experience and what I know about these candidates . . . that Carol would be a better person,” says Whitehead.
Braun carried the precinct with 83 votes, to Emanuel’s 59.
Whitehead figures Braun would have done even better there if his old opponent hadn’t backed Emanuel.
“The president came on the TV and WVON radio saying, ‘I support Rahm Emanuel, he’s a good guy, he’s qualified,’ ” Whitehead says.