OP-ED: No, Toni Preckwinkle Will Not Run For Mayor

(Chicago) – OP-ED: Listen up, Chicago press: It’s not going to happen.

Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle is not going to run against Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

I know you all want her to.

I saw Carol Marin’s sigh-filled plea for her to run and the Sun-Times anonymously quoting some idiot saying she might, just might, run, and Eric Zorn whining about Laura Washington whining about it and honestly you should all just chip in for a billboard or something with fewer words saying the same thing.

I know you’re all going to be bored to tears when Emanuel crushes his hapless opponent(s) like bugs, and some of you may even be fired for lack of anything interesting to write.

That’s very sad and all, but it’s not happening.

This isn’t insider knowledge. I’ve worked for Preckwinkle and for Emanuel both but I would never pretend to know what either of them want to do with their lives.

This is just math, math that you should have known and done already.


Emanuel and Preckwinkle both raise a lot of money. But they also raise a lot of money from the same people! In fact they have 558 common donors between them. These individuals have given Emanuel a total of $6.6 million and Preckwinkle $1.2 million.*

It gets more interesting when you look at their respective major donors, people writing checks of $1,000 or more. In this case 415 of Emanuel’s major donors, or 19.4 percent of them, have also given to Preckwinkle. They represent a total of $6.4 million of Emanuel’s fundraising (31 percent).

In the case of Preckwinkle, 190 of her large donors, or 16.7 percent, have also given to Emanuel. They represent a total of $903,000 in contributions, or 18.6 percent of her career fundraising.

If you’re one of those “progressives” or whatever you’re probably pretty bored now. So what, you say? Labor unions have, like, an infinity dollars and they will totally give all of that money to Preckwinkle or spend it independently and it will be awesome.

That is not how politics works. How it works is a lot of very rich people, people accustomed to giving politicians money and telling them what to do, are going to be really angry if Preckwinkle runs for mayor. Not because they like Emanuel, but because they like giving money to both of them and telling them both what to do. It’s a pretty sweet deal, telling whoever you want what to do while giving them money.

But a Preckwinkle-Emanuel race would change that. Then those 190 people would have to pick sides.Permanently. And it’s all the lousier because if Preckwinkle runs and loses, she’s still Cook County President.**

So that’s a lot of influence that would just be flushed down the toilet, no matter what, if Preckwinkle ran for mayor.

You might think that this doesn’t matter, or shouldn’t matter. But that is how things work. Politics is not about ideas and big exciting fights between labor versus corporations and people versus the powerful.

It is about rich people giving politicians money and telling them what to do.

And it’s not just the donors. The city and county run on a network of staffers, operatives, consultants and lobbyists. I should know; I’m one of them. And we don’t make things work by stomping on each other and getting each other fired.

I know you want the drama, and that life would be a lot simpler if there was a great big epic fight between Team A and Team B. But we the politicos are not here to please you the media. We’re here to do our jobs, and we can’t do our jobs when half of us are getting fired/blacklisted/frozen out/et cetera.

If you want drama, watch House of Cards. If you want to understand Chicago politics, just look at the math.

*If you want to follow along with me, Emanuel raises money for two committees, his mayoral campaign and aldermanic PAC. Preckwinkle has raised for several committees, including for county board president, alderman and committeeman. You can run a basic candidate contribution search for Preckwinkle but need to look up Emanuel’s PAC separately. Do the math with me! It’s fun!  Or you can just download the spreadsheet I made here.

Twitter @WillCaskey

Will Caskey, a contributor to The Illinois Observer, is an opposition researcher and partner at Stanford Caskey. A Louisiana native, Will lives in Chicago where he continues to express annoyance with the term “Chicago-style politics.”

(*Note to Political Insiders: The Illinois Observer also offers our exclusive, subscriber-only e-newsletter –The Insider – to, well, Illinois political insiders. Each Tuesday and Friday at 6:00 a.m. The Insider, whose Consulting Editor is Capitol Fax Publisher Rich Miller, arrives in e-mail boxes with the choicest Illinois, Cook County, and Chicago political gossip, insider information, and news tips. For more information and a free, 4-week trial subscription to The Insider, please go here).