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Rahm foes seek challenger, but who?

Updated: December 1, 2013 6:42AM

Rahm Emanuel is a rooster in a town of early birds. His outsized “cock-a-doodle-doo” is waking up Chicago’s progressive activists. They are gearing up for the citywide elections of February 2015. A reform-minded citywide group, Grassroots Collaborative, has launched a Take Back Chicago movement. “Take Back” aims to capitalize on the growing dissatisfaction over the performance of Mayor Emanuel and his City Council allies.

That strategy is building on multiple fronts. Friday night, the Chicago Teachers Union held its annual LEAD dinner, drawing hundreds of union members and their allies, according to CTU spokesperson Michael Harrington. The union plans to raise big bucks for its political agenda, and recruit candidates for political offices in Springfield and City Hall.

My jury is still out on whether Emanuel deserves a second term.

And who could challenge him? I asked on Facebook and Twitter. Let’s have a digital debate. Who has a major name and possesses the charisma, fund-raising prowess, and management skills? Who could credibly build and lead a multiracial, multi-ethnic coalition?

I heard suggestions from many of you, but your pickings were slim, to none.

Terry Johnson wrote on Facebook: “Preckwinkle is so far the only creditable challenger who can legitimately defeat the mayor. Nobody even comes close. Her integrity is without question, she is beholden to no one!”

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle is the most respected politician in Chicago. A Preckwinkle vs. Emanuel confab is a tantalizing prospect.

But let’s get real. Preckwinkle launched her re-election campaign months ago. She likes her job and has much unfinished business. Her re-election in November 2014 would come just three months before the mayoral election. It’s not going to happen.

A few correspondents talked up vocal, reform-minded aldermen like Scott Waguespack and Bob Fioretti. They may be legitimate champions for reform and open government in City Hall; however, their runs would be quixotic and symbolic.

CTU President Karen Lewis? She is formidable in many ways, a national folk hero in the union movement, and fearless. But Lewis can be even more combustible than her archenemy, and has no government experience. I hear she is out trying to recruit someone else.

One reader emailed two words: Paul Vallas. Intriguing. Since the former Chicago Public Schools CEO left town, he went on to run big-city school districts in Philadelphia, New Orleans and Bridgeport, Conn. Vallas, who lost the 2002 Democratic gubernatorial primary to Rod Blagojevich, may still have the political bug. I posted the name on Facebook, but got little response. Vallas may have been gone too long.

Take Backers, take note: The last time a true progressive movement took City Hall, they found the candidate first. Harold Washington was reluctant in 1982. A movement was created, identified him as “the one,” and met his demands to raise the dollars and register the voters he needed to win.

Today? Bruce Elliott wrote on Facebook: “Let’s face it, there are no credible candidates to run against him. There’s no credible candidate to run against [Gov. Pat] Quinn. Shame on Chicago and shame on Illinois.”


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