Rahm election back story -- it was a small landslide

February 23, 2011 7:55:05 AM PST
Rahm Emanuel has grabbed a slice of Chicago history. A small slice.

The number of votes he received is a modern city election record... for its petite size.

The last time a Chicago mayor won with fewer votes was 1919, when city news was dominated by a baseball scandal known as "The Black Sox."

That year, William "Big Bill" Thompson was elected with 260,000 votes. Thompson went on to become Chicago's most corrupt mayor.

Fast forward nearly a century to Rahm Emanuel.

His Tuesday night victory was achieved with about 322,000 votes as it stands, with all but a half-percent yet to be counted.

When outgoing Mayor Richard M. Daley won his last election in 2007, he received 324,519 votes, so Mayor-elect Emanuel's edge in the record books is slim.

The first few Chicago mayors were elected with far fewer votes. Many of the early Chicago mayoral races (1837-1862) were won with just a few thousand or even hundred votes. Of course, Chicago's population was far smaller.

Emanuel's formidable campaign mechanism overcame a low Election Day turnout. The pre-election projections that voter turnout would be more than 50 percent were way off base. Turnout on Tuesday was less than 42 percent, according to election authorities, who said there may have been a "burnout" factor with voters coming off a November state election.

Tuesday's turnout was not the lowest voter turnout for a Chicago mayoral election, however. There have been some significantly lower numbers in recent Chicago municipal elections, with turnout in the 35-40 percent range.


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