Per the Monday decision of an Illinois appeals court, Chicago mayoral candidate Rahm Emanuel will not be on the ballot for the elections that begin with early voting next week. That may change, as Emanuel’s side has vowed to appeal all the way up the ladder to the State Supreme Court if necessary, but for the moment, there is a giant hole where once there was a front-runner in this battle for the reins of a city Mayor Richard Daley had run for two decades.
Emanuel being booted from the race is akin to disqualifying the New York Yankees from the playoffs, or closing down the voting line for the most popular contestant on American Idol. Even after losing the coveted endorsement of the police union to opponent Gery Chico, Emanuel profiled as the comfortable lead dog.
Thia could turn out to be a huge turning point in the history of city politics: While Emanuel, Chico and Carol Moseley Braun all have connections to Daley politics, Emanuel presents the most familiar front to voters. He looks, talks and thinks like the Machine. Chico does, too, in some senses, but he seems intent on taking on budgetary problems and emphasizing the war on crime to a degree that Daley never did.
It seems very probable that Emanuel is the best man for the job. He has the connections to state and federal government to ensure that clearance for grand projects is never an issue, and his focus on education is sharper and more informed by real vision than his opponents’ education proposals. He has made the CTA a priority, a key consideration since the areas he proposes to upgrade most–the far South Side especially–have been badly under-served for years, cutting some minority populations off from the resources and the job opportunities available downtown.
It is easy to see why his opponents have worked to keep Emanuel out: If he runs, he will probably win, and he is not known for compromise. Yet, he may need to cede something to those working hard to keep him off the ballot, or he may not make it there on Feb. 22.