Odd-numbered years don’t typically offer many marquee elections, aside from a handful of gubernatorial races and the occasional special election to replace a member of Congress who’s either resigned in disgrace or found a more lucrative job on K Street. But look just a little further down the ballot and you’ll find that many, if not most, U.S. cities—including all of the largest—elect their mayors in off years.
These mayors are responsible to millions of constituents, control huge budgets, and, with D.C. mired in gridlock, are often responsible for major policy decisions that have immediate impact on our lives. (Over 80 percent of the country now lives in urban areas.) These elections may not get the same attention as the battle for the White House or control of Congress, but they’re critically important and many offer the opportunity for progressive ideas—so often blunted at the state and federal level—to make an impact.
With that in mind, Daily Kos Elections presents a look at five of the nation’s top mayoral races taking place in 2015, in order of their election dates. We’ll be covering these and many more contests for mayor as the year unfolds, so if you don’t see your city’s race here, please tell us more about it in comments. But without further ado, we’ll proceed to the Windy City:
• Chicago, Illinois: Democratic Mayor Rahm Emanuel spent much of 2014 looking very vulnerable for re-election. With gun violence dominating the headlines and a shaky local economy, Rahm (he’s almost never identified by his last name, either by friend or foe) continually posted poor approval ratings and often trailed badly in hypothetical matchups. The incumbent will face the voters on Feb. 24, and while nothing is assured, he now looks like he has a good chance to win a majority and avoid an April 7 runoff.
Rahm’s main challenger is Cook County Commissioner Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, whom Daily Kos has endorsed.
Also running are Alderman Robert Fioretti, businessman Willie Wilson, and a perennial candidate, who are also Democrats. Recent polls have shown Rahm ahead of his rivals, but a bit away from the 50-percent majority he needs to win outright in February. However, the incumbent has far more money at his disposal than any other candidate, and he’s been blanketing the airwaves for weeks with positive ads. So far, no major outside groups have countered, allowing the mayor to dominate on television. If this continues, it may be enough to put Rahm over the top in February.
Head over the fold for more 2015 action.