Sunday, December 26, 2010

Focus of Chicago Mayoral Race Shifts to Fundraising

Focus of mayoral race shifts to fundraising

December 25, 2010
By Kristen Mack and John Byrne,
Chicago Tribune reporters

With Chicago's mayoral contest coming into clearer focus, the campaign now turns to fundraising shows of strength, a scramble to consolidate support and preparations for an early voting push.

Rahm Emanuel took a big step toward solidifying his spot on the ballot, and state Sen. James Meeks shook up the political calculations by dropping out late last week.

A lull between Christmas and New Year's is expected as voters celebrate the holidays. When the calendar turns to 2011, candidates will have seven weeks until the Feb. 22 election.

The next benchmark in the contest is campaign fundraising. The current cash collection period ends Friday and reports are due by Jan. 20, but candidates with something to brag about are sure to start trickling figures out sooner.

Showing strength in the money game tends to boost the perception of a candidate's viability, leading to more campaign donations. Conversely, a weak campaign checkbook can lead to a downward spiral as money sources shrivel up.

The field got smaller with Meeks' departure, and it could shrink further. The Chicago Board of Election Commissioners still could toss as many as five largely unknown mayoral candidates off the ballot in the coming weeks. What started out as a field of 20 could be cut to eight.

Meeks' decision is viewed in Chicago political circles as helping the other two major African-American candidates, former U.S. Sen. Carol Moseley Braun and U.S. Rep. Danny Davis, because the black vote could be less splintered. A recent Tribune poll found black voters supporting Davis at 21 percent, Meeks at 13 percent and Braun at 10 percent, with another 30 percent undecided.

Geographically, Braun could benefit more — she's now the only remaining South Side African-American candidate, with Davis hailing from the West Side. The city's South Side historically has had greater voter turnout than its West Side. The city's only elected African-American mayor, the late Harold Washington, hailed from the South Side.

As for whether there should be further winnowing among black candidates, Braun said it's not necessary for another African-American contender to drop out.

"There are two Hispanic candidates. There are still what, 18 candidates in the race?" said Braun, only slightly exaggerating the total. "We're all going to be called to present our positions, to make our case to the entire city that this is not a city divided, that we are one community."

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