When all the votes were counted in the Feb. 26 mayoral primary, Lori Lightfoot and Toni Preckwinkle finished first and second respectively in Rogers Park and Edgewater. Still, more than half the voters in both neighborhoods voted for candidates other than the two winners facing off Tuesday. And with turnout expected to be strong in both politically active communities, the question of who will take the 48th and 49th wards is a significant one.
Although at a glance both candidates appear to check the progressive boxes for far-Northside voters, the race will come down to the differences that separate them and how they will be perceived by the neighborhoods.
As election day nears, both campaign efforts will begin to specifically target the most likely voters within each community. That begs to question: What does the likely voter look like?
Despite the diverse nature of both neighborhoods as well as both candidates’ ethnic backgrounds, each candidate will likely be targeting white voters, John Pelissero, professor of political science at Loyola University of Chicago, said.
“Voter turnout in white majority was about 45 percent of the voter turnout in the February election,” he said. “Historically, turnout is higher in white-majority wards and districts so candidates will focus on these areas.”
This means both candidates may be spending their dwindling time before election day trying to drum up support within communities with a large white population, including Rogers Park and Edgewater, with white populations of 42 percent and 55 percent, respectively.
However, this does not diminish the progressive pull in both neighborhoods that might affect how each ward votes, Summur Roberts, director of community relations at Loyola University of Chicago, said.
“Rogers Park has definitely made a distinct turn in being more progressive,” Roberts said.
This was especially evident with the election of Maria Hadden for alderman of the 49th ward, defeating 28-year incumbent Joe Moore, she said.
The election of Hadden “told me a story about how people living in Rogers Park feel and what they want in their community,” Rogers said.
This trend of upsetting the status-quo in Rogers Park might be beneficial for Lightfoot. On the other hand, Edgewater, although possessing a similar liberal bent, might lean more toward a slightly more conservative outlook, which could help Preckwinkle in the polls, Roberts said. And she said Preckwinkle, while every bit a Democrat, “represents more conservatism.”
Preckwinkle has also picked up more endorsements from unions. And Pelissero said she seems to be the choice of the business community as well.
“She was not the first choice of the business community — that was Bill Daley,” Pelissero said. “But she has a record and more predictable set of policy impacts than Lightfoot.”
Preckwinkle has established herself as a tenured politician and has proven to be a reliable public servant. This predictability might help Preckwinkle among businesses, but it seems to be a detractor for younger voters.
“Younger voters are more attracted to the freshness of the Lightfoot candidacy,” Pelissero said. “I believe college-age voters are less attuned to the machine style politics and Preckwinkle now chairs the Cook County Democratic Party — the one time ‘machine.'”
Lightfoot is a newer face within the political scene, serving as a long-time practicing lawyer before moving into politics. This could be an advantage for her among voters 35 and under.
“[Lightfoot] doesn’t have any baggage,” Roberts said. “I am starting to get the sense that in the past that there’s a saying that the devil you know is better than the devil you don’t know. We’re coming into this political landscape that maybe the devil you don’t know is better.”
With these factors in mind, voters will hit the polls Tuesday to decide their future and make history as Chicago elects its first African-American female mayor, regardless of the victor.