Election upset in Chicago

Submitted by Matthew on 11 March, 2015 - 10:48

On 7 April, Rahm Emanuel, Chicago’s mayor, and Barack Obama’s former chief of staff, will face a run-off election against challenger Jesús “Chuy” García.

Chicago’s city elections are officially non-partisan, and mostly the contests in the first round were between leftish Democrats like Garcia and stridently pro-business ones like Emanuel. Nevertheless, the run-off — forced because Rahm Emanuel failed to get 50% in the first round of voting, on 24 February — signals a real revolt.

The US Socialist Worker (unconnected with the British paper of the same name) reports: “The mayor’s allies on the City Council had a hard time, too, with as many as 19 of 50 races for alderman (city council member) heading to a runoff, including one candidate independent of the Democrats, Chicago teacher Tim Meegan. A nonbinding referendum to have an elected school board — it is currently appointed by the mayor — got almost 90 percent support from voters”.

The results reflect reverberations from the 2012 strike by the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) which forced Emanuel to drop his plans to gut the teachers’ union contract. CTU President Karen Lewis had planned to challenge Emanuel for mayor herself before ill-health forced her to step aside, and the CTU, through a group called United Working Families, endorsed Garcia.

Tina Beacock, a Chicago socialist, told Solidarity: “Part of what you’re seeing is an explosion of electoral activity pushed by the Chicago Teachers’ Union. Someone did a study of wards where schools had been closed, and wards where Rahm Emanuel did not get 50%, and they were pretty closely correlated.

“Chuy Garcia? I’d describe him politically as a long-term liberal machine Democrat”.

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