Two narratives dominated Chicago’s first-ever mayoral runoff, which made national news last night: that Rahm Emanuel had bungled what should have been one of the easy victories that his predecessor turned in every four years; and that his juggernaut of money, name recognition, and the momentum that comes with being an incumbent mayor in Chicago would inevitably crush Jesus “Chuy" Garcia.
The truth fell somewhere in between. The night was over fast—around the time Chuy Garcia’s election night party kicked off to the portentous high-lonesome strains of a teen country/folk duo, a third of the vote was in, giving Emanuel a substantial lead that was both eerily close to the final poll and that would barely budge the rest of the night. He won by 11 percentage points, about the same as Harold Washington did in his 1987 re-election and Richard M. Daley in his first election.
Emanuel neither escaped with an ignominiously close victory nor thumped his financially outgunned opponent. The margin was too big to suggest vulnerability, but not so large that people weren’t left wondering what might have happened had Karen Lewis not been forced to tap a reluctant ally to take her place. Yes, a surprisingly cohesive movement was built without the full force of her organizational skills, but as my colleague Carol Felsenthal writes, the seams still showed.
Emanuel won with a coalition. One insider told Mark Konkol that it was “straight out of the Daley playbook.” Mike Flannery observed that it was reminiscent of Harold Washington’s coalition. Again, it was somewhere, interestingly, in between.
Here’s a look at two maps from my colleague Luke Seemann. The first is where Emanuel got his votes by ward.
Wards won by Jesus “Chuy” Garcia
Darker colors indicate a bigger share of the vote
Click the map to zoom
As Rob Paral notes, “his margin of victory in just 4 upscale wards—#s 2, 42, 43, and 44—was 30,514, accounting for 47% of his margin of victory.” The fifth-biggest difference in ward results between Emanuel and Garcia was the far-northwest side 41st Ward (covering Jefferson Park, Edison Park, and O’Hare), where Emanuel outpaced Garcia by more than 5,000 votes. Emanuel did well in the black-plurality 3rd Ward, but much of his support was concentrated in the South Loop on the north end of the ward.
This is not to say that Emanuel did poorly across Chicago’s black neighborhoods; in Austin, on the city’s far west side, he generally got around 60 percent in most precincts. He put up similar numbers around Grand Boulevard, and on the far south side between Washington Heighs and Pullman.
The second map is one of turnout by precinct, and it shows similar patterns. Red indicates precincts with turnout higher than 50 percent of registered voters.
Click the map to zoom
Emanuel did quite well in terms of turnout; far more Emanuel-voting precincts turned out above 50 percent than they did for Garcia. But there are also substantial swaths of tepid-turnout precincts as well.
And it takes on a similar geography, resembling the city’s “income donut” that Daniel Kay Hertz mapped late last year: a concentric circle of wealth wrapping from the near-ish North Side through downtown to the South Loop; a ring of comparative or deep poverty; and another middle/upper-middle class ring on the outskirts of the city. Emanuel’s patterns of support resemble these circles: stronger downtown and on the city’s fringes, weaker in the middle.
It’s not quite the “two cities” that Chuy Garcia made the centerpiece of his campaign. But it does add texture to what happened on Tuesday night. The city’s black vote was watched closely, and it came through for Emanuel, but there are patterns of weakness, or at least softness. The Daleys could count on patronage to turn out the neighborhoods, leading the younger Daley to dominate the Hispanic vote in a way that Garcia couldn’t even equal. In a time of austerity, in a city cutting back on services and employees, Emanuel may have found the limits of how far pinstripe patronage can go.
This seems to have gotten through, on a rhetorical level at least. Last night Emanuel thanked voters for “putting me through my paces” and giving him “a second chance.” But my colleague Carol Felsenthal doesn’t think he’s interested a third chance, and maybe Hillary could make it so. In that case, whatever lessons Emanuel learned might not matter for the next four years. But whoever’s next will need to know the lay of the land.
12 months ago