Rahm Emanuel has been Chicago’s most anti-Arab mayor, for no real reason. On Tuesday, February 24, many American Arab voters and activists celebrated Emanuel’s failure to win the 50 percent of the votes he needed to win re-election and that he has been forced into a run-off against pro-Arab Cook County Commissioner Jesus “Chuy” Garcia. It’s the first time in Chicago history that a Chicago mayor was embarrassed so definitively
By Ray Hanania
In-depth Election Analysis — Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel was denied his easy re-election bid on Tuesday, February 24, and will be forced into a run-off election with his primary challenger Cook County Commissioner Jesus “Chuy” Garcia.
Emanuel, who has been one of the most anti-Arab mayor’s in Chicagoland history, faced four challengers in his bid for a second term as the mayor of the country’s third largest city and the unified rejection of the city’s 30,000 American Arab voters.
Elected in 2011, Emanuel immediately stripped Arab Americans of all of their involvement in Chicago government and suspended all of their city-funded events including dis-banning the Advisory Commission of Arab Affairs and refusing to support the annual Arabesque Festival. Emanuel also has refused to meet with American Arabs and has excluded them from high profile positions in his governing coalition. Click here to read the interview and listen to the podcast of Roxane Assaf, a former member of the Arab Advisory Commission on how the Emanuel Administration undermine American Arab involvement and community events.
“Emanuel has surrounded himself with everyone except Arab Americans. He has sidestepped Arab Americans by reaching out to non-Arab Muslims, and it is intentional,” said one longtime political observer.
“Emanuel’s father, who joined him on stage last night to acknowledge their failure to defeat Garcia, was a notorious member of the Irgun Tzvi Leuhmi which was deemed as a terrorist organization in the 1947 Arab-Israeli war and which perpetrated some of the worst civilian mass murders in Palestine. And, Emanuel has avoided Arab support because he does not want to answer the question of why he served as a volunteer in the military of a foreign country, Israel, but has refused to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military. But the big reason why he won’t involve Arab Americans is that he is a coward and not a leader. He doesn’t believe in inclusion.”
Ironically, the Arab community [including this writer] endorsed Emanuel for election in 2011. Emanuel received the endorsement of English and Arabic language newspaper, The Future News, published by Mansour Tadros. But despite that, Emanuel has refused every effort by American Arabs to sit with them and discuss the issues.
Arab Americans don’t want to discuss Middle East politics, activists said, but rather how American Arabs can become active again in Chicago events and government as they rightfully deserve.
“A lot of Arab Americans point to Emanuel’s father and the mayor’s service to the Israeli military, but in the end, those are not the issues that American Arabs really care about. The anger in the Arab American community is reflected by that snub, but deep down, American Arabs want to be included in City Government and they want to be respected by Mayor Emanuel because American Arabs pay their taxes, have served in the U.S. Military, are actively engaged in the Chicago public school system, and are engaged in Chicago businesses,” the political observer noted.
“We don’t really care about how Emanuel feels about the Middle East. We care about how Emanuel feels about American Arabs who are citizens of his city. We care about jobs. We care about inclusion. We care about diversity. And it is unprofessional and shameful that Emanuel has failed to reach out to American Arabs.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE: Emanuel has refused to be interviewed by writer Ray Hanania because Hanania is an American Arab of Palestinian descent, even though Hanania covered Chicago City Hall as a political reporter for 17 years from 1976 until 1992.)
In 1995, Chicago ended its system of primary and general elections and transitioned to a simpler “Open Primary Election.” Essentially, in the past, candidates would run in a primary election representing the major parties such as the Democratic and Republican parties, and then run in a General election six weeks later. Under the Open Primary System, all of the candidates run together and the winner must receive at least 50 percent of the vote plus one vote to win. If no one wins more than 50 percent of the total votes cast, then the top two contenders must face-off six weeks later in a run-off election.
Last night, Emanuel received an embarrassing 45.4 percent of the vote or 208,305 votes. Garcia received a strong 33.9 percent of the vote or 155,545 votes. The unofficial numbers represent 98 percent of all votes cast Tuesday.
“We don’t really care about how Emanuel feels
about the Middle East. We care about
how Emanuel feels about American Arabs
who are citizens of his city. We care about jobs.
We care about inclusion. We care about diversity.
And it is unprofessional and shameful that
Emanuel has failed to reach out to American Arabs.”
Three other contenders also stripped away votes leading many to argue that Emanuel was denied a victory because of their performances. Wealthy McDonald’s Franchiser Willie Wilson ran in 3rd Place receiving 10.6 percent of the vote or 48,660 votes. Chicago Alderman Robert “Bob” Fioretti, who also courted Arab American voters, received only 7.4 percent of the vote or 33,911 votes, and perennial mayoral candidate William “Doc” Walls increased his vote totals from previous attempts to run for mayor receiving 2.8 percent of the total votes or 12,692 votes.
Despite the first round defeat for Emanuel, a pattern surfaced that suggests Emanuel may win the run-off election that is scheduled to be held on April 7, 2015.
But Chicago’s racial makeup may decide the April 7 election run-off, and not in Garcia’s favor. Garcia was born in Mexico.
An analysis of the city’s ward-by-ward elections shows that Garcia managed to beat Emanuel in 15 Chicago Wards (seven West Side Wards, one North Side Ward, six Southwest Side wards and one Southeast Side ward) while Emanuel won the remaining 35 Chicago Wards, the voter patterns shows a troubling sign for Garcia, who is Hispanic.
Of the 15 wards Garcia won, the majority represent wards with the largest Hispanic voter populations on the West Side and Southwest Side of the city’s population. Garcia won the White 49th Ward on Chicago’s North Side, which is the home turf to one of his strongest allies, Cook County Clerk David Orr, and the 10th Ward on the far South Side where Arab American voters rallied behind the Arab American candidacy of Samantha Haddad Webb, who did not win enough votes to unseat the White Aldermanic incumbent. Haddad ran 5th in a field of 7 candidates including incumbent Ald. John Pope who only received 44 percent of the vote and was forced into a run-off also on April 7.
In contrast, Emanuel won wards dominated by African Americans and White voters. When the votes cast for Wilson and Walls, who are Black, and Fioretti, who is White, are thrown back into the mix, many believe Emanuel will easily attract the majority of those votes. Garcia was born in Mexico and Emanuel is White.
Emanuel was endorsed by Congressman Luis Gutierrez, normally a very close ally of Commissioner Garcia. But Gutierrez is also one of the members of Congress controlled by the Israel lobby. Even though his congressional district overlaps almost precisely over the majority of the wards Garcia won, Gutierrez backed Emanuel. Many believe Gutierrez’s support of Emanuel was to protect the campaign donations he has received from AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.
Gutierrez spoke in defense of Emanuel on election night, noting that Emanuel “still was the number one candidate in the race,” although never acknowledging that no Chicago mayor has ever been forced to save his candidacy in a run-off election.
Chicago’s Hispanic and African American voters have been at odds ever since the fall of the Chicago Machine in 1979. That Hispanic-African American rivalry could significantly influence the outcome of the April 7 election run-off with the majority of the Black and White votes that were received by Wilson, Fioretti and Walls going to Emanuel.
Garcia’s coalition included backing from Cook County Clerk David Orr, who is viewed as a leader of Chicago’s progressive movement and Lakefront Liberals. Garcia won Orr’s 49th Ward where Orr is based.
In acknowledging he fell short of victory Tuesday night, Emanuel was standing alongside not only Gutierrez, but also Black Congressman Bobbie Rush, a former member of the Black Panthers. Emanuel had a majority of the union vote and also won the endorsements of every major Chicagoland newspaper like the Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times, Crains Chicago Businesses but also Chicago’s only African American daily newspaper, The Chicago Defender.
Emanuel also has the endorsement of Illinois Secretary of State Jessie White, who is the only African American to hold statewide Illinois office. White Gutierrez and City Clerk Susana Mendoza served as Co-Chairs of Emanuel’s Re-election committee.
Wilson was backed by Black progressive Congressman Danny Davis and was joined by him during his concession speech.
Garcia received the backing of the influential Arab American Democratic Club which brought together more than 400 people to rally at Garcia’s side during a fundraiser last month, and helped Garcia raise enough money to be the only other candidate to pay for television commercials, besides Emanuel.
AADC Spokesman Samir Khalil, a longtime activists in Chicago Democratic politics, said, “Chuy Garcia has always been on the side of Arab Americans. He was there with Mayor Harold Washington when we fought for the creation of the Arab Advisory Commission and he was there to support every Arab American activity. Garcia stands for inclusions. He has not shut out Arab Americans from his door as Emanuel has done. Garcia was the Arab community’s candidate.”
Garcia also received the endorsement from AMVOTE, the Political Action Committee headed by former Cook County Judge William “Bill” Hadded.
The African American vote will be the key to the April 7 election. And Emanuel has the edge having been endorsed by most of the Black community’s religious leaders and also by President Barack Obama. That voter’s edge could make the difference.
In conceding being forced into a run-off on election night, Emanuel said “We will get back out there, talking to our friends and families and neighbors as they make a critical choice about who has the strength, who has the leadership, who has the ideas to move this great city forward.”
To show how the Black vote is significant in the upcoming race, Emanuel touted even receiving the endorsement from a small Black community newspaper that normally mayor’s don’t showcase. The Chicago Citizen newspapers, a prominent African American publication, endorsed Emanuel, highlighting the mayor’s “progressive stance on education,” “job well done” raising the minimum wage and commitment to community policing.
The Citizen wrote: “Since taking office in 2011, the Mayor has been on a fast track to stay true to campaign promises he made in 2010, particularly his promises to improve critical issues including Chicago’s educational system, economy, technological infrastructure, and crime. In the Chicago Citizen’s Newspaper’s opinion, and to the city of Chicago’s fortune, Mayor Emanuel, in an appealing go-getter kind of way, kept his promises.”
(Ray Hanania is an award winning former Chicago City Hall reporter and is President/CEO of Urban Strategies Group media consulting. He can be reached at email@example.com.)
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