It has become a free fall for the city of Chicago 2019 mayoral race, and it’s only going to get worse. Last week, three out of five Black candidates making official announcements—Cook County Clerk of the Circuit Court Dorothy Brown, Neal Sales-Griffin, and JaMal Green this adds to the overflowing pool of candidates. Chicago businessman Willie Wilson threw his hat in the ring two weeks earlier, and Troy LaRaviere began his fundraising efforts by putting $1,000 of his money into campaign pot—there are concerns of the Black vote becoming split in several directions. Is this coincidence or a political strategy?
Although no official announcement from Mayor Rahm Emanuel has been made—there is no doubt he is seeking a third term. In fact, his team is gearing up for a much earlier campaign push than usual. Former CPD Supt. Garry McCarthy and former Chicago State University President Paul Vallas have stepped up to the plate and speculation on Cook County Board Commissioner, Bridget Gainer leaping is closer to the truth than rumor.
Why so many candidates?
From one of the most stressful presidential elections to recent Illinois, primaries have echoed Chicago voters have a great deal on the line to remain an independent voice in the decisions being made by policymakers.
Every group whose had a long voting history in this city has made it clear on maintaining their presence on the frontlines of the political machine from the deep Irish base, growing Jewish and Asian businesses to African American and Latino gatekeepers.
With 33 percent of the African American community coming out to vote last month, it is clear—engagement is down. So-called community leaders are disconnected to how to motivate residents that are registered but not compelled by the candidates to feel it’s worth casting a vote. Candidates rely on these ‘leaders’ to have a direct pipeline to the voters based on the past, but they too are struggling on how to understand a world they’ve dismissed for economic dealings, loose mentions and a place behind the podium at a press conference.
Millennials vs. Baby Boomers
Let’s take a look at the millennium push. Only three percent of young voters between 18 to 33 cast their vote in the Illinois primaries. There were more attendees at a Lollapalooza Music Festival than those who cast ballots yet, throughout the summer into the Fall we did not see any diplomatic push at lifestyle events and programming which engaged that demographic. Often we see campaigns cherry-picked some members from Young Democrats and say, ‘Here is our millennial connection!’ Nope, we’re not biting the bait on that one because no one group is the same—there are layers. They are not the only potential legislators, but others who have no real interest in the legislative process should be pursued. How do we engage them in the same way as Rae Sremmurd, Kendrick Lamar, Tory Lanez or No Name moves them? No, we’re not asking our candidates to belt out a rhyme, but words have power and power motivates movement. Movement initiates action.
Make sure to have a team of peers who can engage on their level and have a presence in their environment—not the only way around. Will they vote for the seniors? They can come close, but we must remember our elders went from an era where there was nothing to lose. When our youth feel comfortable having attainability without sacrifice—they are slower to process how their civil liberties are becoming more limited by each day.
We’ve witnessed through Chance the Rapper how words and action can motivate young people. The day before the presidential election, SocialWorks hosted an outdoor free concert where approximately 3,000 attendees came out, and he led 700+ young people to 69 W. Washington to early vote.
As the mayor moves around the communities launching new projects and issuing out TIF monies, he will also have advocates in his corner praising his progress. But, in the shadows, there will be the dark cloud of the LaQuan McDonald dashcam scandal and the progression of CPS school closings over his head.
Be sure to hear a great deal from unions such as Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) on their battle with the administration as well as the loud voices of parents and students at National Teachers Academy (NTA) and students from Englewood whose schools are on the list to be closed. As we await on COPA’s ruling of police officer Robert Rialmo fate with the police force after his fatal shots took the lives of Quintonio LeGrier and Betty Jones—a decision in his favor will become the rallying cry for challengers to put Emanuel front and center.