The $2 million super PAC created to re-elect Mayor Rahm Emanuel and strengthen his City Council majority is coming to the rescue of 17 of the mayor’s most loyal supporters.
Chicago Forward is hoping to put the mayor’s City Council floor leader, two of his aldermanic appointees and 14 other incumbents over the top with spending in the “healthy six-figure range” on direct-mail, robocalls and “digital communication.”
Becky Carroll, the longtime mayoral ally now serving as chairman and CEO of Chicago Forward, said it’s the first of a “steady drumbeat” of spending on aldermanic races she plans to roll out in the three weeks that remain before the Feb. 24 election.
The direct-mail piece blanketing the 29th Ward states, “Chicagoans deserve a $13 minimum wage. Ald. Deborah Graham delivered.” Similar mailers will be going out in the other 16 wards.
Beneficiaries of the first wave are among Emanuel’s most loyal supporters. All of them find themselves in contested races. Some are in trouble. Others can just use a little boost.
Joining Graham are the following aldermen: Will Burns (4th), Natashia Holmes (7th), Anthony Beale (9th), John Pope (10th), Joann Thompson (16th), Lona Lane (18th), Howard Brookins (21st), Mike Zalewski (23rd), Danny Solis (25th), Roberto Maldonado (26th), Deb Mell (33rd), Emma Mitts (37th), Marge Laurino (39th), Pat O’Connor (40th), James Cappleman (46th) and Debra Silverstein (50th).
O’Connor is the mayor’s floor leader and a 32-year veteran with $187,909 in his campaign war chest. But he had to survive a petition challenge to remain on the ballot against Dianne Daleiden, who is backed by the Chicago Teachers Union, in a Northwest Side ward where O’Hare Airport noise has become an issue.
Brookins served on the school closing commission that held public hearings across the city that culminated in Emanuel’s decision to close a record 50 public schools, most of them in predominantly black neighborhoods on the South and West Sides.
Brookins has raised $61,859 for his fight for survival against six opponents after his former chief of staff plead guilty in December to taking a $7,500 cash bribe from an undercover FBI informant in exchange for the alderman’s blessing for a liquor license in his ward.
At a 2013 Christmas party at the alderman’s office, the mole allegedly showed Brookins a note that read, “12K to you for letter of support.”
Burns served on the mayoral panel that recommended raising Chicago’s minimum wage to $13 an hour by 2019. He has $149,534 in campaign cash for a race against two challengers trying to cash in Burns’ running battle about the future of Dyett High School
Deb Mell was appointed by Emanuel to replace her father in a classic political deal engineered after the midterm retirement of veteran Democratic warhorse Richard Mell.
She has $75,979 in cash for a three-way race against CTU candidate Tim Meegan and Annisa Wanat, who is backed by the Fraternal Order of Police.
Pope has been under fire on the petcoke issue, even after joining forces with Emanuel on a string of regulatory measures, in a Southeast Side ward that has been an environmental dumping ground for years.
With $192,647 on hand, Pope faces six challengers, led by CTU-backed Sue Sadlowski Garza, the daughter of union leader and veteran Southeast Side community activist Edward Sadlowski.
Mitts and Beale pushed through the mayor’s controversial ride-sharing ordinance and Emanuel’s more recent reforms aimed at providing relief for struggling Chicago cabdrivers without raising fares.
Mitts has $87,489 on hand for the fight against three challengers, led by CTU-backed teacher Tara Stamps, the daughter of longtime community activist Marion Stamps.
Beale finished a distant third in the 2013 special election won by Robin Kelly to fill the seat vacated by the resignation and conviction of longtime Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. Beale has about $45,000 to fend off three opponents, including FOP-backed Michael LaFargue.
Sources said Chicago Forward weighed a range of factors before determining beneficiaries of the first major wave of spending.
They include voter turnout in 2011; cash on hand; other endorsements and their level of financial support; number of candidates on the ballot and most important, where incumbents stood on the issues pivotal to Emanuel’s second-term agenda.
“While a lot of progress has been made over the last three years, the city still faces significant challenges. Our residents and families need strong leaders who are willing to make tough choices,” Carroll said.
“Chicagoans want leaders who will work together to get things done and collaborate, even if they have differences of opinion. What they don’t want are those engaging in Washington-style politics and gridlock. Aldermen we’re advocating for . . . represent the kind of strong leaders needed in tough times who will work together . . . and not waste time engaging in finger-pointing.”
Until now, Chicago Forward had targeted just two members of the City Council’s Progressive Caucus: Toni Foulkes (15th) and Scott Waguespack (32nd).
In a direct-mail piece last month, the super PAC ripped Waguespack for casting one of four “no” votes against a 2015 budget that raised the city’s parking tax again to generate $10 million needed to double the year-round army assigned to patch potholes and repair crumbling streets.
A second mailer targeted Foulkes indirectly by lavishing Thompson with praise for bringing jobs and a Whole Foods to her impoverished ward and for helping to raise Chicago’s minimum wage. Foulkes and Thompson are running against each other, thanks to a new ward map that merged portions of their two wards.
Waguespack responded to the opening salvo by accusing Emanuel of trying to snuff out City Council dissent.
“He wants a perfect rubber stamp. That’s why he’s attacking us. He doesn’t want any dissent at all to what he’s doing. He said [the opposite] in 2011. Now, that’s all he wants. Zero democracy,” he said.