At Braun’s campaign party at a South Side ballroom, a 10-man gospel chorus was on stage belting out a song with the chorus “We are the chosen generation.”
Many in attendance turned away from the TV on one side of the room and clapped for the group or waved their hands to the music. Some held up smart phones to get quick videos of the performance.
A few dozen “Carol for Chicago” signs were stacked just outside the room for Braun’s eventual appearance before a bank of news cameras. Some on the campaign were signaling it will be an early night.
Earlier today, the major contenders fanned out across the city on Election Day looking for last-minute votes.
Despite a tremendous amount of attention on the mayor’s race and a slew of hotly-contested aldermanic races, election officials say turnout could be as low as 40 percent. That’s far less than the 50 percent turnout officials were hoping for on Monday.
If no candidate scores a majority tonight, the top two finishers will square off for six more weeks of campaigning. A runoff election will be held to determine Chicago’s next mayor.
Mayor Richard Daley, who is out of town today, isn’t on the ballot for the first time since 1989. He’ll leave office on May 16 when his successor is sworn in.
Emanuel is at a Near West Side union hall, Chico at a downtown hotel, Braun at a South Side ballroom and del Valle at a microbrewery.
About 150 turned out foir del Valle’s election night party. State Sen. Iris Martinez, D-Chicago, said she was amazed by the low turnout.
“Why people are not more engaged the way they should be? It amazes me,” she said.
“I think people are going through foreclosures, the bad economy. These could be all the affects of it,” Martinez said. “People feel disengaged.”
Chico, a former Daley chief of staff, spent the closing weeks of the contest working to erode what had been growing support for Emanuel and get into a runoff by ridiculing the “Rahm Tax.” That’s Emanuel’s plan to reduce the city’s home-rule sales tax but expand the tax base to unspecified services. Chico ripped the plan in TV ads and Emanuel put up his own spots to rebut the criticism.
In the final week, Chico ratcheted up his TV commercial criticism, contending Emanuel was pushing the sales-tax plan because “Rahm grew up in suburban safety and privilege” of the wealthy North Shore where higher taxes might be more acceptable than in working family neighborhoods.
Emanuel, who largely avoided addressing his opponents, called Chico “desperate” and countered “It’s not what neighborhood you grew up in. It’s whether you’re going to fight for neighborhoods.”
But Emanuel also began lowering expectations last weekend, acknowledging “it may take one or two bites of the apple” to become mayor.
Still, his camp pushed hard in the final days to close out a win in the race, keeping with the aura of inevitably it pushed. Emanuel used an extensive bankroll to run TV ads, deliver automated telephone messages and extol volunteers to get out the vote.
Though pre-election polls showed Emanuel gradually nearing the magic majority of support needed to prevent a runoff, Chico, Braun and del Valle each had urged voters to extend the campaign and allow voters more time to digest the significant issues at hand. Among them: An increasing city budget deficit, an improved-but-still-troubled public school system, a ballooning public-employee pension debt and ways to create jobs, improve the economy and combating a perception of a growing crime problem.
Each of Emanuel’s rivals pleaded with voters to ignore the former White House chief of staff’s huge lead in the polls and turn out to vote to set up a runoff.
“We, I think, will have a runoff and it will be good for the city,” del Valle predicted last weekend. “There are too many issues out there.”
Veteran election attorney Burt Odelson ended up being one of Emanuel’s toughest opponents. He claimed Emanuel wasn’t eligible to run for mayor because he abandoned his Chicago residency when he went to work for Obama.
After wending its way through the city’s election board – including a raucous hearing in which the tough, sharp-tongued Emanuel won points for staying cool under questioning for more than 11 hours by citizens and activists – the state Supreme Court in late January ruled in Emanuel’s favor.
Throughout it all, Emanuel abided by his campaign’s plan to keep his head down and let his lawyers do their work and being regimented about staying on message and trying appear above the fray.
“This is better than a commercial, isn’t it?” Odelson asked at one point during the hearing.
“It’s actually cheaper,” Emanuel responded of the attention.
Continue reading here: Chico concedes mayor’s race to Emanuel