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Rahm Gives Ald. Michele Smith Last-Minute Campaign Cash

By Paul Biasco | April 3, 2015 6:04am
 Caroline Vickrey, left, and Michele Smith during a runoff debate.
Caroline Vickrey, left, and Michele Smith during a runoff debate.
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DNAinfo/Paul Biasco

LINCOLN PARK — Mayor Rahm Emanuel and his supporting super PAC are pushing a last-minute influx of cash toward Ald. Michele Smith's re-election bid in the hotly contested 43rd Ward race.

The mayor's super PAC push comes on top of more than $165,000 that Smith has raised during the runoff period, a total more than 4½ times the amount raised by her challenger Caroline Vickrey.

The mayor's committee, Chicago for Rahm Emanuel, donated $10,000 directly to Smith's campaign Tuesday. Smith was one of three aldermen in runoffs to receive $10,000 from the mayor's campaign Tuesday.

In the period between the Feb. 24 election and Tuesday's runoff, the mayor's super PAC, Chicago Forward, has spent $19,851 on mailers supporting Smith on top of the $10,000 in cash.

 Mayor Rahm Emanuel
Mayor Rahm Emanuel
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DNAinfo/Ted Cox

Becky Carroll, chairwoman and creator of Chicago Forward, said Thursday the fundraising committee's spending in the ward was not finished, and would exceed $20,000 by Tuesday's runoff.

"We are engaging voters through mail to highlight Alderman Smith's strong leadership and ability to work collaboratively with Mayor Emanuel in addressing the City's challenges and keep moving the 43rd Ward forward for all its families and residents," Carroll said.

During the general election in February, Chicago Forward spent a total of $41,281 on Smith's campaign.

As of Thursday's latest campaign finance disclosures, Smith had raised $165,800 and Vickrey $39,700 since Feb. 24.

Smith, who has announced her support and backing of Emanuel repeatedly at debates, has billed herself as an independent in the City Council.

A study published late last year studying Emanuel's so-called "rubber stamp" City Council, found that Smith voted with Emanuel 87 percent of the time in divided roll-calls.

Thirty-seven of the city's 50 aldermen voted with Emanuel 90 percent of the time or more, while seven voted with the mayor 79 percent of the time or less.

Smith was one of six aldermen who voted with Emanuel between 80 and 89 percent of the time.

Smith said the financial support won't affect her role as an independent in City Council moving forward if re-elected.

"As I have done in the last four years, if I feel that the mayor has a proposal that is not in the interest of our ward, I negotiate with him and vote against him," Smith said.

Smith said she and the mayor recognize the number one priority of the city is the financial crisis, and that is a major reason she has his backing and he hers.

Smith's backers include many of Emanuel's biggest including Donald Edwards, principal of Flexpoint Ford LLC and a director of the Ann and Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital, and Sam Mencoff of Madison Dearborn Partners.

Edwards has donated $200,000 to the mayor's campaign during the election and runoff, while Mencoff donated $150,000 to Chicago Forward.

Vickrey's funding has come from a variety of sources, but mainly from neighborhood residents, many of them in the area near the Children's Memorial Hospital site.

A $10,000 donation from her to the campaign on March 19 accounts for more than a quarter of her fundraising since the February election, according to Illinois Board of Election records.

"The fact that I'm running neck-and-neck with an incumbent who the mayor is backing, I think that demonstrates that's where we sit," Vickrey said. "In a way it's a positive."

A poll released by Aldertrack Thursday morning put Smith 12 points ahead of Vickrey in the 43rd.

The poll of 440 respondents conducted by the independent firm Ogden & Fry had Smith at 56 percent to Vickrey's 44 percent with a 4.77 margin of error.

Smith's ad campaign has been hitting Vickrey on property taxes and a variety of revenue generating proposals although Vickrey calls those claims false.

One such consideration of taxing vehicles entering Lincoln Park, which Vickrey mentioned in a Tribune editorial board questionnaire, has been featured in multiple Smith ads.

Vickrey has since said she is no longer considering the proposal after speaking with residents over the course of the campaign.

"It was a brainstorming idea that I am not pursuing and it's not something that's an integral part of my campaign," she said. "It's been distorted and mischaracterized in ominous TV ads to make it sound like something it's not."

The discrepancy in fundraising has limited Vickrey's ability to reach many residents of high-rises in the Gold Coast and lakefront areas that Smith has been able to hit with TV ads.

Instead, the challenger said she has been relying on a "ground game" of getting out into the community.

Smith, too, has been out in the community and plans a get-out-the-vote rally Saturday morning outside the new Whole Foods on Fullerton.

"We are feeling very good and encouraged," Smith said.

Vickrey is planning her own meet-and-greet Saturday at 901 W. Armitage, a move that angered Smith.

The vacant storefront was targeted in a lawsuit filed by the city in May at Smith's urging to try to combat a plague of storefront vacancies in the neighborhood.

The building is owned by James Winkler, who also owns the majority of the vacant storefronts targeted in the lawsuit.

"It shows she doesn't really know about the local conditions," Smith said. "That landlord has been a neighborhood scourge for decades."

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