Chicago’s mayoral race: maybe money can’t buy an election

By Alysha Khan

While Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s failure to win reelection outright has dominated the headlines, equally interesting is a look at the money all five candidates raised in the final weeks leading up the election.

The April 7 runoff will pit Emanuel against Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, the second highest vote-getter

To win the mayoral election, one of the candidates need to get more than 50 percent of the vote. But everyone failed to achieve a simple majority, including Emanuel, who raised more than nine times the campaign contributions that Garcia collected.

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The “winner” is Chuy for forcing a runoff

A Chicago Tribune poll put Garcia 25 points behind Emanuel the week before election day and in a city where incumbent mayors have historically dominated, so it was hard to imagine Garcia winning outright. The real victory? How all four of Emanuel’s opponents combined to win an aggregate majority.

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“This election was a referendum on Rahm Emanuel and the outcome of that referendum was that the majority of Chicagoans didn’t want him to continue as mayor,” said Richard Simpson, former alderman and professor of political science at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

This despite Emanuel raised $15 million

The campaign said it raised $15 million during the entire campaign – $2 million of which was raised between January 1 and election day on February 24. Of the other four candidates, only businessman Willie Wilson raised similar amounts in 2015.

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*Note: Willie Wilson donated $2,055,000 to his own campaign.

Emanuel had more donors with deeper pockets than Garcia

Among Emanuel’s donors were a number of CEOs and presidents, while Garcia’s featured more retirees and educators.

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But Garcia got more bang for his buck

For each vote, Emanuel raised $72, compared to Garcia $9.

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“You don’t have to match an opponent dollar for dollar,” Simpson said. “What you have to have is enough money to be able to get your message out and apparently the little over $1 million Chuy Garcia raised was enough.”

Also interesting: While Emanuel raised money, Willie Wilson just dipped into his own bank account

During the last six weeks, the businessman poured $2 million into this campaign, from his own money and his company, Omar Medical Supply, Inc.

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And Bob Fioretti has to pay back more than half his 2015 contributions

The law firm Orun & Roth LLC – where Fioretti is Of Counsel – gave a $130,000 loan to the campaign and contributed an additional $4,500 as a contribution. Overall, 58 percent of Fioretti’s contribution came from this one law firm.

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Want to know more? Medill Reports’ Ezra Kaplan has more on the money behind the runoff.

Photo at top: Left – Mayor Rahm Emanuel at the Chinese New Year celebration in Chicago’s Chinatown neighborhood. (Ezra Kaplan/Medill) Right – Mayoral candidate Jesus “Chuy” Garcia announced Tuesday night he will go on to challenge Mayor Emanuel in a run-off election April 7 (Meg Anderson/Medill).