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Garry McCarthy’s Run For Mayor Will Be Fascinating (For Reasons Besides the Obvious)

He’s a longshot, but if he puts policies to his desire to stop school closings and move money from rich to poor neighborhoods, he’ll make it interesting even if it’s not close.

Garry McCarthy has a lot of work to do to become mayor, beginning with buying office furniture for his campaign headquarters.   Photo: Zbigniew Bzdak/Chicago Tribune

He’s running.

The former police chief, fired by Rahm Emanuel in the wake of the Laquan McDonald shooting, announced his candidacy for mayor in a video that dwells a lot on his parents, “the epitome of the greatest generation.” And as one would expect from the former top cop, he promises to reverse the recent increase in violent crime.

But that’s not all he promises to do. In fact, it’s the third of the three legs of his (still just rhetorical) platform.

Number one is “stop the school closings.” Number two is “tax fairness.” As Daniel Kay Hertz put it on Twitter last night, “the video is an odd mix of bungalow belt conservatism (’we have to return to the values of my parents’ generation’) and progressive talking points (’end school closings’).”

The McDonald shooting—McCarthy’s role, the bad blood it made between him and Emanuel—is already consuming all the oxygen; WLS has a statement from Alderman Jason Ervin showing how difficult it will be for McCarthy to make inroads with black voters, who were critical for Emanuel’s re-election.

But even if that makes him a long shot, the combination of a self-described “conservative Democrat” making progressive noises could stir up interesting political conflicts. McCarthy doubled down in a lengthy exclusive with the Trib’s Bill Ruthart:

Asked how he’d reconcile giving South and West Side schools more money without raising taxes, McCarthy broached a taboo political topic: taking money away from the North, Northwest and Southwest Sides.

“The formula we are using right now is not equitable. That’s the bottom line. The resources need to go where they’re needed most, OK?” McCarthy said. “People don’t want to hear that, I know that. I know people don’t want to hear we might be moving money from one place to another, just like nobody wants to move their police officers, as I learned very early in my tenure here in Chicago.”

Of course, the Northwest and Southwest Sides, depending on which parts of those sides you’re talking about, are host to a lot of cops and firefighters, McCarthy’s natural constituency. It depends on the specifics of where he wants to move money from, and to.

Between the steep hill he’d have to climb with black voters and progressive policies that could alienate power players and pundits, McCarthy could end up making no dent in Emanuel’s vote, which… wouldn’t work. In any event, building a winning coalition will be an immense challenge for McCarthy. But his name recognition will get him a lot of attention, and whatever coalition he can build at the intersection of bungalow belt conservatism and progressive initiatives on taxes and schools will be compelling even if it’s far too small to really challenge the incumbent.

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