So former White House Chief of Staff and Chicago mayoral candidate Rahm Emanuel might be having some problems with Latino voters in the final hours before Windy City residents take to the polls to choose the city’s next mayor. According to Reuters, the current four-way mayoral race will be impacted by the city’s growing Latino bloc.
The Reuters article, titled “Chicago mayor race showcases growing Hispanic power,” states the following about Emanuel:
To become mayor of the nation’s third largest city and avoid an April run-off, Emanuel needs to win more than 50 percent of the vote next week, and was already at 49 percent in the latest Chicago Tribune/WGN poll. Emanuel’s closest competitor, former Chicago schools president Gery Chico, was at 19 percent in the poll, published February 10.
But Chico had a small advantage among Hispanics – at 38 percent to Emanuel’s 34 percent, with Chico’s Hispanic numbers up 12 percent from the previous Tribune poll. Chico is of Mexican and Greek-Lithuanian descent. Another contender, Puerto Rico-born city clerk Miguel del Valle, was at 8 percent of all voters and 18 percent of Latinos.
“The Hispanic candidates are attracting Hispanic voters – Rahm is doing less well there than in the white or black communities,” said Dick Simpson, head of the political science department at the University of Illinois at Chicago and a former Chicago alderman.
As elsewhere in the country, Hispanics are a growing force in Chicago, representing almost a third of the city’s population although only about 15 percent of voters, Simpson said.
Emanuel, who left the Obama administration as Chief of Staff to run for mayor of Chicago, is having problems with Latino voters because many feel that he was the reason behind the stalling of comprehensive immigration reform. Even though politically Emanuel felt that downplaying legislation like The Dream Act (which did not pass in the U.S. Congress) was the right move to make, it definitely caused criticism from Latino voters who see comprehensive immigration reform as a top priority for the country.
As Reuters reports when it asked del Valle for comment:
“Emanuel more than anyone else is responsible for derailing immigration reform in this country,” said del Valle. He noted that this it not just an Hispanic issue, but one for the city’s large Polish and Asian communities.
A post from Real Clear Politics provides some additional commentary about Emmanuel’s perception among Latino voters in Chicago:
In the days leading up to the Feb. 22 election, Emanuel, hoping to avoid a runoff, has been desperately trying to remake himself as an advocate for Latinos. The opposite is closer to the truth.
He has proposed a scholarship program to help immigrant students go to college that he cynically calls the “Chicago Dream Act.” The real Dream Act rejected last year by the U.S. Senate would have legalized the undocumented, not just hand out scholarships. As Emanuel knows full well, cities lack the authority to change legal status.
The post continues with additional insight as to why Latino voters are not backing Emanuel:
In the last 20 years, Emanuel has had three prominent jobs in politics: senior adviser to President Clinton, member of Congress, and Obama chief of staff. And in all three posts, Emanuel has shown that he is not the least bit interested in Latinos or what they want from Democrats.
Emanuel was at Clinton’s side when the 42nd president rolled back welfare benefits for legal immigrants, fortified the California-Mexico border with Operation Gatekeeper, and signed enforcement legislation that made it easier to deport illegal immigrants.
As part of the Democratic leadership in the House of Representatives, Emanuel kept immigration reform off the agenda because he feared the debate would hurt Democrats, coerced Democratic colleagues to vote for a bill that criminalized the undocumented, and declared immigration the “third rail of politics.”
And finally, while serving as Obama’s chief of staff, Emanuel helped the administration put comprehensive immigration reform on the back burner, fortify the border again, and carry out a record number of deportations.
The post ends with a clear position on Emanuel and his Latino problem:
Emanuel has been airing a Spanish-language ad of his own where he paints Chico as anti-immigrant, claiming that his opponent is against “amnesty” and in favor of Arizona’s tough new immigration law.
Talk about nerve. This guy really will say or do anything. That includes accusing opponents of not supporting something he himself has never supported — what the ad calls “amnesty.”
If Rahm Emanuel thinks that Latinos in Chicago are going to forget everything that he has ever done — and not done — and vote for him for mayor, then he’s the one who is dreaming.
So, will Latino voters in Chicago have the power to send a message to Emanuel, or will it be voting as usual, where even though 30% of Chicago residents are Latino, only 15% of them are registered to vote?
February 22 should be an interesting day in the Windy City.