Victor Reyes, the once-behind-the-scenes force behind Mayor Richard M. Daley’s Hispanic Democratic Organization, has advice – a lot of it – for Mayor Rahm Emanuel and aldermen. Fresh off of completing a Masters program at George Washington University’s Graduate School of Political Management, Reyes, born in Mexico to a Puerto Rican father and Mexican mother, recently wrote a capstone project on what Emanuel can do to win Latino voters in 2019.
Despite multiple requests to Reyes — as well as John R. Daley, the senior government director at Reyes Kurson, Reyes’ law firm — for his thesis, the document was not shared with The Daily Line. Reyes offered to send a redacted version to omit comments from other politicos, but never followed through. Crain’s columnist Greg Hinz wrote about the broad strokes here.
“I chose the Rahm’s re-election, and in particular, the impact of the Latino vote on the election because of the impact it had in the last election to put him into a runoff, and the ironic position that it could help re-elect him,” Reyes said on The Daily Line’s Aldercast, recorded June 12. He studied census and voter data in Chicago, as well as studies conducted by graduate students on racial voting patterns in municipal elections in Los Angeles, Houston, San Antonio and New York.
White young people are moving into the city in droves, Reyes said. The population of young Latinos in Chicago grew as well, and more will be eligible to vote in the 2019 election than ever before, according to the most recent Census figures. The black population in Chicago continues to decrease. The best opportunity Emanuel has to win, Reyes argues, is to improve on the 36 percent of the Latino vote he secured in 2011.
“The demographic fundamentals is one of the most important things that you need to look at,” Reyes said. “He’s likely to drop in his percentage of black vote. He’ll either sustain or maybe have a small drop in white vote, and the way to make up for the loss of black vote is to make it up with Latino vote. If there is no Latino [in the race], the research that I did shows, that where there’s no Latino in the race, and all things equal, white against white? Either candidate can get that Latino vote. Black against white, either can get that Latino vote.”
There are barriers. One of the biggest that Reyes is not sure Emanuel can overcome is the mountain of scandals at Chicago Public Schools, which is on pace to become a majority-Latino school district. Not reassuring voters that an end to the problems is in sight could allow opponents to “package them all into a proof that he just doesn’t care about regular people that live in the neighborhoods.”
“I don’t know if he can overcome it. It’s a big challenge, because the school challenge cuts across ethnic lines and racial lines,” Reyes said.
Here are five other takeaways from our conversation:
Something No One Wants to Talk About – The city’s pension ramp. Needed payments to fund the city’s four funds jumps from $1.3 billion to $1.7 billion in 2020, according to the city’s own 2017 Annual Financial Analysis. There’s another jump between 2021 and 2022, to $2.1 billion. No candidates will want to discuss how they will secure the revenue to make those payments, Reyes said. If you’re Emanuel, “you don’t want to talk about the $2 billion you have to raise, you barely want to talk about the $2 billion you already raised,” Reyes said. “I do believe that’s going to be a major, major vulnerability for anybody, not just the mayor. What can any candidate do… about the next $2 billion that will have to get raised?”
Will Ald. Quinn Face a Latino or #MeToo Candidate? – 13th Ward Ald. Marty Quinn is likely to get a challenge, but for Reyes, it’s unclear whether that challenger will come “from the Latino side or from the #MeToo movement side.” Either way, Quinn is currently tough to beat, despite continued stories about how he handled his brother sending unwanted texts to a volunteer and campaign manager in his ward organization, Reyes said. “I don’t think you’re going to find a harder working alderman in office. That guy walks and talks to every voter multiple times throughout the year.”
Burke Is Definitely In, But Turnout Will Be Key – Ald. Ed Burke (14) has been somewhat coy about a 2019 run for the Chicago City Council after his brother, Rep. Dan Burke lost his 1st District Illinois House seat to an ally of Cook County Comm. Jesus “Chuy” Garcia in the March election. Reyes says the city’s longest-serving alderman faces a tough fight. “Ed Burke has told me he’s committed to running, he’s not going to not run. He feels he still has a strong relationship with his strong voters,” Reyes said. “The thing that will be interesting to see is the turnout in these wards for municipal elections. They came out for Chuy in the runoff in droves, higher than ever before. If he’s not on the ballot and it’s just a progressive candidate that he supports against an incumbent like Ed Burke, will the turnout be what it was when Chuy ran? I don’t think so.”
Will Mayoral Challengers Form Slates? – “It will be interesting to see if any candidates against the mayor form a slate,” Reyes said. A mayoral hopeful teaming up with several aldermanic campaigns can vastly improve ground game operations in a race where Emanuel is increasingly likely to outspend his opponents on television and mail advertisements.
The Latino Vote is Not Monolithic – Like any other voting bloc, there are variations – “Even Rahm got 36 percent of the Latino vote,” Reyes said. There are not only liberal, progressive Latino voters who backed Chuy Garcia and Sen. Bernie Sanders; there are moderates, centrists, and pro-law enforcement Latinos that vote similarly to their white ethnic neighbors on the city’s Northwest and Southwest Sides (“the polling shows that Latinos are the most pro-law enforcement group in the city,” Reyes says.) The mayor’s actions on sanctuary cities, the municipal ID, and suing the Trump administration all impact non-voting immigrants, but are “intended to send a signal to the voters, the ones that can vote, that I care about you because I care about your relatives who are immigrants. What will get people to vote for Rahm is not just his rhetoric or his policies on immigration,” Reyes says, but other bread and butter issues. “He has to remove the immigration issue as a disqualifier for them to vote for him.”