As you know, the Northwest Side GOP Club, along with the Chicago Young Republicans, endorsed Willie Wilson for mayor. While his bid to make the runoff came up short, he made a strong showing in spite of the many obstacles he faced. Having no government experience and some conservative-leaning beliefs may be fine, even an asset to some, for many in our liberal city however, it rings too close to their nemesis in the White House.
In doing an assessment of the results, I thought of the mantra ‘Follow the money’. How much a candidate has and where it comes from can tell a lot about the direction of the upcoming administration as well as who will be a part of it. This election is no different so I took a deeper look into the candidates’ finances and the money told an interesting story.
As indicated below, Dr. Wilson’s campaign funds placed him in the middle of the pack as far as overall funding. Lightfoot raised about the same amount; Joyce and Mendoza $1 million more; Chico twice as much; Preckwinkle nearly three times as much; and Daley more than five times as much.
What’s also important to note is where the funds came from. Three candidates, Daley, Preckwinkle and Mendoza, received large donations from unions and business insiders. Fioretti and Enyia each got a large donation from celebrities, with Kanye paying off Enyia’s 2015 campaign debt. Only Joyce and Wilson self-funded large portions of their campaigns; Joyce receiving nearly half of his campaign funds from his wife, while Wilson funded 99% of his campaign himself.
This is important because large contributions often come with expectations of favors, especially in Chicago. Perhaps Dr. Wilson wanted to be able to manage the city without having political debts to pay off.
Another way to evaluate the strength of a candidate’s support is to look at how much was paid for each vote. The lower the ratio the better indication that either the money was used efficiently or there was strong grassroots support, limiting the need to spend large sums of money.
The report below shows Dr. Wilson had the fifth lowest cost per vote and of the candidates with the six lowest cost per vote, only Wilson and Lightfoot were amongst the top five vote getters.
This means he came in fourth place with no union backing or celebrity endorsements, and the double-edged sword of backing from two Republican groups in a vastly liberal city.
Wilson ran a clean and consistent campaign; warning citizens of the dangers of corruption, high taxes and superfluous spending. In the end, he was bested by two progressives who want to move the city sharply to the left. They are currently arguing about which of them is more progressive.
They say the people get the government they deserve. In this case, we deserved Dr. Wilson, unfortunately, too many people couldn’t get past his Louisiana twang and the image they’ve created of millionaires, even a benevolent millionaire whose life is a textbook example of the American dream.
I hope Dr. Wilson will remain politically engaged. I have no doubt that Lightfoot and Preckwinkle will reach out to him. His 55,000 votes makes his endorsement important. He should try to get them to give some concessions to the struggling middle-class families who have no one fighting for them.
But beyond this election, he can have a tremendous impact on the future of the city. A large percentage of Chicago’s citizens have no influence on their leaders. Poor and middle-class residents are leaving in large numbers. Unfortunately, instead of trying to find solutions or to hear their pleas, Chicago’s ruling class are doubling down on the policies which created our current challenges. This will undoubtedly leave the poor and middle-class citizens, the ones who cannot leave, with no voice. Dr. Wilson can be that voice.
Author Charles Love is a member and contributor of the Northwest Side GOP Club