Comptroller Mendoza Mulls a Run for Mayor
Fresh off her re-election win for State Comptroller, Susana Mendoza is eyeing jumping into another election—the Chicago mayor’s race.
Mendoza, who served as City Clerk from 2011-2016 before she took the Comptroller’s office, has long been rumored to be considering joining the crowded 2019 race for mayor, and most signs point to her jumping in soon.
While Mendoza herself has kept quiet since Tuesday’s election, several anonymous political operatives have spoken with both the Chicago Tribune and the Sun-Times, all but confirming her intentions.
“She has not been shy,” one source told the Tribune. “She has actively been running for mayor for weeks now.”
Just a few days before the election, a snippet of an already filmed campaign video leaked to the press. “I’m Susana Mendoza and I’m running for mayor of Chicago,” she says in a few seconds of video that was obtained by NBC5 on Friday. Wearing a grey fuzzy sweater reminiscent of the one Rahm Emanuel donned in a 2015 campaign video, she adds “I ask you to join me on this journey together.”
Mendoza lightly dodged questions from the media about the leaked video, saying she was focused on her run for Comptroller. “I’m considering a run for another office and have taken steps to prepare for that should I choose to move forward but I have not made any formal decisions,” Mendoza said in a statement given to the Sun-Times.
But now that Tuesday’s results have been counted and the race is over, Mendoza can focus on that other office, and despite it being late in the game to formally announce a mayoral run, she may have the infrastructure and access to finances to pull together a formidable campaign.
One Democratic campaign operative told the Sun Times that Mendoza would appeal to voters across all spectrums, while another aligned with Mendoza played up her appeal to progressive voters.
“She’s shown her executive chops by standing up to Rauner, speaking truth to power and bringing some sanity to the state’s fiscal mess,” the operative said. “Having executive experience at the city and state level gives her a leg up. And the potential to make history as the first Latina mayor of Chicago is a big deal.”
Nothing, however, is certain. At the moment the field is extremely crowded and though it may dwindle once petitions to be on the ballot are turned in at the end of the month, she’d be competing with a few other high profile candidates like Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle and former Obama Chief of Staff Bill Daley, as well as wildcard candidates like Amara Enyia, who received an early endorsement from Chance the Rapper and big financial donations from Kanye West.
Mendoza’s credentials as a more progressive candidate could also come into question if she receives support from allies of Emanuel or the mayor himself. Sources told the Tribune she began reaching out to his donors less than two days after he announced he wouldn’t seek a third term, and she’s been consulting with political strategist Becky Carroll, a staunch Emanuel ally who served as spokesperson for the Chicago Public Schools and ran a Super-PAC dedicated to electing aldermen that supported the mayor in 2015.
Emanuel’s City Council floor leader, alderman Patrick O’Connor, said that while timing is tight, the 2019 race for mayor is an “unusual” one, and a run by Mendoza was well within the realm of possibility. “I don’t really see her turning around and running for mayor as difficult,” he told the Tribune. “President Preckwinkle just won, and she’s running. If that’s acceptable, I’m sure it will be acceptable for Susana.”
2018 Midterms a ‘Green Wave’
While both Republicans and Democrats were hoping for a red or blue wave for their respective candidates, Tuesday’s midterm elections were more of a green one.
The election saw record fundraising and spending both locally and nationally, with a total of at least $4.7 billion spent on Congressional races across the United States. “It was a midterm with record spending, but cash did not always equal success,” Sheila Krumholz, executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics, told the Washington Post. “It’s just awash in money.”
But while the truckloads of money raised and spent didn’t necessarily equal success for various campaigns on a national level, they certainly helped Illinois Democrats.
Democratic governor elect billionaire J.B. Pritzker self-financed his campaign to the tune of $171,832,734.95, breaking national records. Meanwhile, outgoing governor Bruce Rauner financed his campaign with more than $57 million of his own money, and raised a total of $106.8 million. Collectively, the pair managed to come within striking distance of making the 2018 Illinois governor’s race the most expensive gubernatorial contest in history, spending more than $230 million. The record was set in the 2010 California gubernatorial election, in which candidates spent more than $280 million.
According to the Sun-Times, this means Pritzker spent about $72.90 a vote, while Rauner spent about $49.94.
Other races saw staggering amounts of money flowing into them as well. In his bid for State’s Attorney General, state Sen. Kwame Raoul raised more than $6 million, while rival Erika Harold raised nearly half that. Jay Young, the executive director of Common Cause in Illinois told NBC5 that many House races saw big numbers as well.
“We already have about 39 races, I believe, state House races that are in excess of a million dollars,” said Young. “Several that are $2- to $3-million.”
While it may not always mean victory, that amount of money in elections does, however, mean that for the average person, seeking political office without it is almost impossible.
“The concern is that just the amount of resources they have at their disposal tend to drown out all those other voices,” Young said. “This money, it’s a plague, unfortunately, on our electoral system.”
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