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This Race Is Getting Icky

The attacks have been brutal — and they’ve fallen largely along demographic lines.

Mendoza and Preckwinkle at the Crain’s forum Wednesday   Photo: Chicago Tribune

Here is the latest dirt on Susana Mendoza, emailed to the press Wednesday discourtesy of the Toni Preckwinkle campaign (emphasis ours):

As Susana Mendoza’s fledgling campaign tries to hold on to any sort of relevance, and bad news continues to cascade down, Mendoza is stuck yet again trying to distance herself from her close pals. The latest? Her ex-boyfriend Joe Moreno, who is now under investigation for filing a false police report in a bizarre story that hasn’t been really been explained, is apparently hosting a fundraiser later this month with “Featured Guest” Susana Mendoza…

So, for those keeping score at home, Mendoza has had to distance herself from indicted Alderman Ed Burke, Alderman Danny Solis, Speaker Mike Madigan, donor Brian Hynes, and now Alderman Joe Moreno.

I’m sorry, but when candidates start prodding one another about their ex-lovers, it’s a sign that this race is getting icky.

It is true that Mendoza dated Moreno in the late 2000s, when both were young, single Chicagoans on the make in politics. But what does a dozen-year-old romance have to do with Mendoza’s qualifications for mayor?

Here’s what: In a 14-candidate field, in a segregated city whose political culture is built around ethnic alliances, it’s a viable strategy to try and eliminate opponents in your same demographic lane. Preckwinkle seems to believe there’s room for only one woman of color in the April 2 runoff, and she’s making sure she’s the last one standing.

Preckwinkle started by trying to knock her rivals out of the race altogether, challenging the petitions of Mendoza, Lori Lightfoot, and Dorothy Brown. She dropped her challenges to Mendoza and Lightfoot, but succeeded in keeping Brown off the ballot.

(Preckwinkle wasn’t the only candidate playing this game: Willie Wilson filed challenges against LaShawn Ford, Ja’Mal Green, Neal Sales-Griffin, and Roger Washington. Paul Vallas challenged fellow white guy Garry McCarthy; Jerry Joyce challenged Bill Daley.

Now, unable to bury Mendoza and Lightfoot, Preckwinkle is trying to cover them with mud. In advance of a February 2 Women’s Mayoral Forum, sponsored by the Chicago Women Take Action Alliance, Preckwinkle sent out an e-mail titled “How Will Susana Mendoza Mislead Voters at the Women’s Forum Today?” It included video clips of Mendoza endorsing disgraced congressman Aaron Schock, and speaking out in favor of the death penalty on the floor of the Illinois House.

“How can Mendoza endorse an anti-choice and anti-[Affordable Care Act] radical Republican, Aaron Schock, over a pro-choice Democratic woman for Congress, and accept $10,000 from him in 2011,” the press release asked.

At the end of January, Brown rose from the political grave Preckwinkle had dug for her to endorse Amara Enyia. Sure enough, one of Preckwinkle’s allies, Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa, unleashed a Twitter thread attempting to portray Enyia as an enemy of progressive causes. He wrote that she “moved to Chicago in 2009 to work as a policy analyst for [Richard M.] Daley,” worked for an “anti-union, pro-charter astroturf group called Kids First,” and generally promotes “a technocratic neoliberal approach to gov.”

Preckwinkle’s opponents are tough politicians, too, and they aren’t just taking it. At a Sun-Times editorial board meeting on Tuesday, Mendoza charged that “[t]here’s been a code of silence with President Preckwinkle’s office and how she’s dealt with sexual harassment,” after Preckwinkle failed to fire chief of staff John Keller until six months after hearing he’d engaged in inappropriate behavior.

Preckwinkle responded that Mendoza is no one to talk about ethics, since she was “married in Ed Burke’s house.”

Meanwhile, Lightfoot demanded that Preckwinkle give back $116,000 she received from a fundraiser … in Ed Burke’s house. (Preckwinkle says she did so.)

Lightfoot also criticized Preckwinkle for an ad in which she appeared to take credit for forcing the release of police footage showing Laquan McDonald’s murder, writing:

By using the Laquan McDonald video as a shiny object to distract from her role in the Ed Burke extortion scheme, Toni Preckwinkle proves she is not ready to lead. Toni Preckwinkle’s attempt to erase the tireless organizing of thousands of activists, young people, lawyers, investigative journalists, and everyday Chicagoans who rose up to demand justice is deeply concerning. It’s also concerning that Toni Preckwinkle would feature footage that can re-victimize friends, family members, and survivors of trauma.

Chicago has had a woman for mayor, in Jane Byrne, and two black men, in Harold Washington and Eugene Sawyer. But we’ve never had a woman of color.

In Chicago’s mayoral race, the two candidates with the most political experience are Preckwinkle and Mendoza. They began as the front runners. But they’re working so hard to tear each other down that we may end up choosing between two white guys on April 2.

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