CHICAGO (WLS) — Chicago’s mayoral race has largely focused on crime, including how best to fight it and who should run the police department.
But given that seven of the nine candidates are black, how much could race play a role in the February 28 election?
Four years ago, Bill Daley narrowly lost the runoff because the white vote was sharply divided among six candidates in the mayoral race, including Paul Vallas, who, this year, is the only white candidate.
The question is how important the race will be this time.
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When Harold Washington defeated incumbent Mayor Jane Byrne in the 1983 primary and went on to win the general election, it was largely due to black voter turnout.
“Harold Washington made a call that it was time for African Americans to have a voice and participate in the town hall and African Americans responded to that call in droves,” said ABC7 political analyst Laura Washington.
Don Rose, a longtime political consultant, said that for voters in this election, race may be less of a factor.
“In 1983, race was the factor, 90%,” Rose said. “The issues are pretty consistent, across racial, ethnic, neighborhood lines. It’s all crime.”
However, the seven black candidates in the mayoral race are faced with the fact that they will have to appeal to a much broader set of voters to win, given that there is only one white candidate and one Latino candidate in the race.
“We have two other candidates who are going to carve out a much bigger piece of the pie, the white vote and the Latino vote,” Washington said.
Data from the census conducted every 10 years shows how Chicago’s population has changed.
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In 1980, Chicago was 46.4% white, 39.5% black, and 14% Hispanic. The 2020 Census shows that the population is now split almost evenly between white, black, and Hispanic people.
“The African-American vote alone is not going to elect anyone. It requires a broad coalition of individuals, however, when we join forces as a community, we have a strong voice at that particular table. With our voice fragmented, it becomes somewhat watered down.” said Jason Ervin, councilman for the 28th Ward and chair of the Black Caucus.
That could spell potential trouble for Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who made it to the runoff four years ago with a fair amount of support from white voters.
“She has lost a lot of that support, and many of the voters who thought she was going to be a reform mayor, an effective mayor, have been disappointed and are looking elsewhere,” Washington said.
“It is very possible that with García and Vallas we will not have a black in this second round,” said Rose.
ABC7 has contacted all the campaigns and has received a response from most. Some of the candidates spoke about the need to build a broad coalition, with a couple saying the number of black candidates challenging Lightfoot is a reflection of her dissatisfaction with her.
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