With that being said, let's not forget that Chicago style politics is unique in ways that can sometimes seem ruthless and oppressive. The current city council which some have dubbed the "rubberstamp aldermen" for their unwavering support of Mayor Rahm Emanuel's policies, are all poised to spend over $100,000 each to try and retain their seats. And with financial backing like that many of them will use every tactic possible to defeat challengers. Below is a list of some common and some uncommon tactics everyone should expect from the Chicago political machine.
#7 Intimidation & Threats - This gestapo inspired behavior is the pinnacle of how old school Chicago aldermen get things done in their wards. A certain long time west side alderman allegedly has a history of threatening business owners and others in an attempt at silencing any dissenters. During the past several months of petition gathering, reports have surfaced around the city in which candidates circulating petitions have been met with blatant threats including physical altercations and harassing phone calls. Beware, the machine is still well oiled, alive and kicking!
#6 Pay to Circulate Nominating Petitions - Because these days most incumbent alderman prefer not do the grassroots legwork of actually going out to meet their constituents, many of them opt to hire political hacks or petition specialists to knock on doors and gather signatures for them. Just ask your neighbors if they can remember the last time they actually signed a petition directly from the alderman. Pay attention and follow the money. Most campaign finance records of incumbents will show, "consulting fees", which generally between August and November mean individuals were hired to gather petitions.
#5 Newsletters, Mailers, Flyers and Door Hangers - If you thought the Governors race was excessively filled with advertisements, just wait until December and January arrive. If you haven't already received one, be prepared to receive endless newsletters, flyers and all sorts of glossy junk mail from your current alderman asking you to support their reelection bids. What's interesting is that this will probably be the first time you've heard from your alderman in four years. Be prepared to hear from them for two straight months before they go back into hibernation.
#4 Lie About Your Record - The easiest way to avoid a debate on the issues is to lie about your stance on that issue. Unfortunately for the incumbents, all of their voting records are public. It's much harder to lie and say you're progressive or that you represent the people when your voting record says otherwise. Be on the look out, I call these alderman "bandwagon progressives." Because they're only around until they win their seat back.
#3 Free Shred Days - In an effort to appease residents into thinking that they actually care about them, incumbents will set aside a couple weekends during the month to offer a day in which you can shred all those boxes and boxes of mail and junk that you just don't have the time or money to do yourself. Of course they'll take all the credit for organizing this "Free" event which borders closely to vote buying. But as I always say, follow the money. Nothing is free. Campaign finance records will show exactly who is benefiting from these so called Free Shred days.
#2 Free Turkey Give Away - This is the classic "Frank Lucas" style tactic that unfortunately has been a staple in many of the low income communities. I'm not against giving food to those in need, but I am against incumbent aldermen using poverty and hunger to politicize their campaigns and paint the picture that they really care about their communities. If they really cared about their communities handing out turkey's once a year wouldn't be their only contribution to the ward.
#1 Challenges - This one is easy and the most commonly used tactic. Cowards run from a fight, and the easiest way to avoid a fight is to eliminate your challengers in the pettiest possible way. By challenging petitions from other candidates in their ward, these incumbent alderman are indicating that 1) They're scared to run on their record 2) They're insecure in their ability to win outright 3) Given the chance to openly debate challengers they would rather cower from a fight. The question then becomes, do you really expect someone who won't even fight for themselves to fight for their community? Challenging petitions is the cowards way out, be on the look out for all those challenges coming up. And be on the lookout for my top 10 cowards list afterwards.