Renters are in the majority here, which could tip the scales for Bring Chicago Home — provided that group turns out to vote. Incumbent U.S. Rep. Danny Davis may be too old, but he’s got the ads and support of our governor. Here’s a rundown of the five most exciting parts of the ballot in this Tuesday’s primary election — and how things may shake out.

Bring Chicago Home referendum

During last year’s mayoral campaign, Mayor Brandon Johnson vowed to “make the ultra-rich pay their fair share.” That’s the aim of the Bring Chicago Home ordinance, which would raise taxes on $1 million-plus home sales to pay for services for 68,000 unhoused Chicagoans. (Home sales under $1 million will get a small tax break.) Robin Hood couldn’t have written it any better. Neither could Pretty Boy Floyd, the Depression-era bank robber who destroyed mortgage records and donated food to the poor.

Emma Tai, former executive director of United Working Families, canvassed for Johnson during the mayoral election, now she’s leading the campaign to pass the referendum. The lesson of Johnson’s victory, and the lesson of the Bring Chicago Home campaign, is that when they’re organized, people can win elections — no matter how much money their opponents spend. But this time, the money is there, too. Realtors groups donated $1.3 million into the Realtors in Opposition to Real Estate Transfer Tax. But End Homelessness, a committee supporting the ordinance, has raised $1.5 million. 

Most Chicagoans won’t be directly affected by Bring Chicago Home, because most Chicagoans don’t own property: 54 percent of the households in the city are renter-occupied. (Nationwide, the percentage is 34 percent.) analyzed the political behavior of renters, and found they’re more progressive than homeowners. 

On the other hand, renters are less likely to vote, which could make a difference in a low-turnout primary. Also, real estate interests are contending that the tax will be passed on to renters, because most multi-unit properties sell for more than $1 million. 

Danny Davis vs. Kina Collins and Melissa Conyears-Ervin, U.S. House of Representatives, 7th District

At 82, Davis is one of the 10 oldest members of Congress. He’s even older than Joe Biden, who’s too old to be president. Isn’t it time for a new generation of leadership? That’s the argument Kina Collins has been making for the last four years. This is the 33-year-old’s third run against Davis. In 2022, she almost beat Davis in the Democratic primary, winning 45.6 percent of the vote to his 52 percent. Collins is a community organizer — the perfect background for a progressive Chicago politician. Last weekend, the Strokes played a fundraiser for Collins at Credit Union 1 Arena, raising between $200,000 and $300,000 for the candidate (who had only raised $72,000), and drawing thousands of music fans who may have come to see the Strokes but had to listen to Collins’s campaign speech, which was about “crushing” student loans and abortion rights.

“We don’t have enough women and Black women in Congress,” Collins said. “They’ve got money, and we’ve got people.”

There is another Black woman in this race: city Treasurer Melissa Conyears-Ervin, wife of 28th Ward Alderperson Jason Ervin. Conyears-Ervin has been accused of multiple ethics violations. The Chicago Board of Ethics found that she violated the city’s ethics code by firing two employees who warned she was misusing city resources to host a prayer service. The employees received a $100,000 settlement from the city. Nonetheless, Conyears-Ervin’s powerful office has enabled her to raise $620,000 — more than any candidate in the race. Like Collins, Conyears-Ervin is presenting herself as a candidate of change compared to the elderly Davis, who served on the City Council and County Board before going to Congress.

“Danny Davis has been in office since 1979 and isn’t getting the job done,” she says on her website. “Davis has voted to raise his own pay ten times and is under investigation for misusing taxpayer dollars. Melissa Conyears-Ervin will be a new voice in Washington fighting to get guns off our streets, bring down costs for working families, and defend abortion rights from Republican extremists.”

In Davis’s ads, he’s been hammering Collins as soft on crime and quotes her advocating for defunding the police — which is SPICY for voters!

Davis has the support of establishment Democrats, including Governor J.B. Pritzker and Senate President Don Harmon. With two candidates dividing the anti-old guy vote, he should be able to get one more term.

Natalie Toro vs. Graciela Guzman, State Senate, 20th District

Toro was appointed to the seat last year to replace Cristina Pacione-Zayas, who joined Mayor Brandon Johnson’s administration as deputy chief of staff. The 20th District includes the neighborhoods of Logan Square, Hermosa, and Avondale — the Milwaukee Avenue corridor that is the heartland of Chicago progressivism, with its population of Latinos and hipsters. The issue here is, quien es más progresivo? Toro won the appointment with the weighted vote of 33rd Ward Committeeperson Iris Martinez, the Cook County Circuit Court Clerk, who supported Paul Vallas in last year’s mayoral election. (Martinez is being challenged for committeeperson by 33rd Ward Alderperson Rossana Rodriguez Sanchez, a member of the council’s Democratic socialist caucus.) To Guzman, that taints her with conservatism, even though Toro has sponsored a bill to overturn the state’s Rent Control Preemption Act, which prohibits municipalities from enacting rent control, and a bill to require insurers to cover in vitro fertilization. 

Guzman, though, is a Chicago Teachers Union organizer, the same background as the mayor. (She was also chief of staff for Pacione-Zayas.) You can’t get more progressive than that in Chicago. She’s also been endorsed by Bernie Sanders. Guzman wants single-payer health care in Illinois, as a pathway to universal coverage, a graduated income tax, and decriminalization of sex work. Guzman has the endorsement of United Working Families, the CTU’s political arm. 

But Toro is outspending Guzman, $2 million to $500,000.

Can the UWF ground game pull out another win for an underfunded candidate, or will money and incumbency triumph as usual?

Eileen O’Neill Burke vs. Clayton Harris III, Cook County State’s Attorney

State’s Attorney Kim Foxx is retiring, but Burke — a former appellate judge with two Irish names — seems to be running against the unpopular incumbent nonetheless. This week, in a speech to the City Club, Burke called the state’s attorney’s office “woefully understaffed and mismanaged” and said Foxx “doesn’t believe in accountability.” 

Obviously, Burke wants voters to see Harris as Kim Foxx II. And in 2020, Foxx got only 54 percent of the vote against Republican Pat O’Brien — the worst performance by a Democratic state’s attorney candidate since 1996. If Harris is seen as the second coming of Foxx, it could be bad news for his campaign.

 But Harris does have the support of Foxx’s political godmother, County Board President and Democratic Party Chair Toni Preckwinkle. And with that comes the party’s slating. 

Yet in last year’s mayoral race, voters named crime as their No. 1 issue, and 63 percent said they do not feel safe in the city. That should favor Burke, the tougher-on-crime candidate in this race. Burke also has the endorsement of the county’s more conservative elements, including Fraternal Order of Police President John Catanzara (which she has rejected).

Joy Virginia Cunningham vs. Jesse Reyes, Illinois Supreme Court

Cunningham was appointed to the state supreme court in 2022, to replace retiring justice Anne Burke. She became the third Black justice on a seven-member court, which has never had a Latino member. That’s pretty much what this race is all about. Reyes, who sits on the state appellate court, says it’s time an ethnic group that makes up a quarter of Cook County gets one of the county’s three seats. Reyes also ran for the state Supreme Court in 2020, but lost to P. Scott Neville Jr., another Black justice 

“Our system of justice should be reflective of our population and should be reflective of the various communities that the court serves,” Reyes told the Sun-Times.

Cunningham thinks the election should be about experience, not race.

“Justice Reyes has injected ethnicity and race into the contest, and I think that that’s wrong,” she told Injustice Watch.  “I think the highest court in our state is better and more important than personal goals and personal firsts.”

Reyes has the support of Illinois’s two Latinx congresspeople, Chuy Garcia and Delia Ramirez, but Cunningham has been slated by the Democratic Party, so even Latinx committeepeople such as the 22nd Ward’s Michael Rodriguez are supporting her. As the incumbent, she should keep the seat, but the Democrats will be under pressure to slate a Latino next time there’s an opening.