The Chicago Democratic Machine saved Rahm Emanuel.
On Tuesday, the mayor earned a second term, besting Cook County Board Commissioner Jesus “Chuy” Garcia with 56 percent of the vote, according to unofficial vote totals.
And Emanuel did it the Chicago way — on the ground, with a personal touch.
Led by campaign veterans who earned their chops under former Mayor Richard M. Daley and the late Cook County Board President John Stroger, Emanuel volunteers followed the tried-and-true election playbook that kept those powerful men in office for 36 years combined.
A groundswell of volunteers, including city workers taking vacation days and paid door knockers, successfully pushed supporters in wealthy, white wards along the lakefront — Emanuel’s strongest voting bloc — to cast early ballots and come out in force on Election Day.
And boy did it work.
Emanuel crushed Garcia, pulling in 84 percent of the vote in the 42nd and 43rd wards — a collection of heavily white wards that include some of the city’s wealthiest ZIP codes in River North, Streeterville, Gold Coast and Lincoln Park.
Voters in Lakeview and Wrigleyville helped the mayor score 75 percent of the vote in the 44th Ward.
In the 47th Ward that includes the mayor’s Ravenswood home, Emanuel picked up 65 percent of the vote — a 15 percentage point gain over February election results, according to unofficial vote totals.
On the Northwest Side, the strategy was “straight out of the Daley playbook,” a campaign insider said.
Even Daley's former aide Terry Teele, who resigned in scandal, volunteered to help get out the vote with an aggressive ground game in the mostly white, solidly middle-class wards that are the home of generations of city workers.
Emanuel topped Garcia in four Northwest Side wards, including capturing 64 percent of the vote in the 41st Ward — home of Norwood Park and Edison Park residents who filed the most noise complaints related to new flight paths at O’Hare Airport.
“Up on the Northwest Side, we had a huge number of volunteers, and they hit precincts three or four times [Tuesday.] We had a lot of people out. A lot of people phone-banking,” a campaign source said. “They want to talk to a person to be a conduit to the candidate so they can speak their piece. It’s cathartic. … People in this town expect to be asked for their vote.”
In his final campaign ad that aired Monday, Emanuel humbly did just that, saying, “I ask for your vote on April 7.”
After failing in the February general election to win a majority in both the 19th and 11th wards — historically South Side Irish wards with strong ties to the Daley organization — Emanuel picked up 59 percent and 62 percent of the vote, respectively.
Further evidence of Emanuel’s Daley-inspired runoff strategy could be found on the Election Day palm card of the former mayor’s nephew, Patrick Daley Thompson, who handily won his aldermanic bid in the 11th Ward. The mayoral instruction? Rahm.
Voters in mostly black wards on the South Side got the kind of full-court press they hadn’t witnessed since the Stroger days, with a massive army of foot soldiers instructed to “press the flesh” and “knock on doors three, four, five times” to make sure faithful voters made it to the polls to vote for Emanuel, a campaign insider said.
Stroger, the late Cook County boss, probably would have been proud of the results.
Emanuel carried every majority African-American ward, including the 4th Ward, home of President Barack Obama, with 61 percent of the vote, according to unofficial vote totals.
The mayor won every ward south of 67th Street, except the mostly Hispanic 10th Ward, which Garcia won with 59 percent of the vote, according to official vote totals.
Indeed, Garcia’s strongest showing at the polls came in overwhelmingly Latino wards on the Southwest and Northwest sides of the city. Ald. Ricardo Munoz, Garcia's strongest ally on the City Council, rounded up 80 percent of the vote in his 22nd Ward, which is nearly 90 percent Hispanic.
Garcia beat Emanuel handily in every mostly Hispanic ward except the 13th — home of Democratic power broker Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, who also serves as ward committeeman.
Garcia netted 65 percent of the vote in the 80 percent Hispanic 14th Ward controlled by Ald. Ed Burke, the longest-serving alderman in Chicago history who supported Emanuel and serves as the chairman of the powerful Council Finance Committee.
But Garcia — the Chicago Teachers Union-backed “neighborhood guy” whose candidacy was energized after forcing Emanuel into a runoff — fell short everywhere else.
"We didn't lose today. We tried today,” Garcia told his supporters after conceding defeat. “We fought hard for what we believed in."
While he’s right about that, there’s no denying another Election Day truth — Chicago politics hasn’t changed a bit.
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