Crowd of candidates vying for Emanuel's seat

February 17, 2009 3:31:16 PM PST
Voters in western suburbs head to the polls two weeks from Tuesday for a special primary election to help select a replacement for Rahm Emanuel. Emanuel gave up his seat to become President Obama's chief-of-staff. There are nearly two dozen candidates vying for the job.

It's tough to stand out in a field of 23, especially with such a condensed schedule. The candidates are trying to get attention through old-fashioned door-to-door politics as well as the media. Forums and town hall meetings are being held constantly, including two Monday, but the biggest hurdle is likely to be getting voters even interested in the race.

Dan Rostenkowski, Rod Blagojevich, Rahm Emanuel. The 5th Congressional District is rich in political history, which is why 23 candidates are vying for the job.

So, with so many and so little time, how does one win their party's primary?

"When all is said and done, the candidate who raises the most money and spends the most money in the 5th Congressional District Democratic primary will have the best chance of winning," said Paul Green, Roosevelt University.

So far, Democrat Sara Feigenholtz claims to be leading the pack in fundraising. This past weekend, she spent some of the dough on TV ads, which other candidates say they will do soon as well.

Democrat Mike Quigley is hoping to get some mileage out of a Sun-Times endorsement, but the biggest challenge for every candidate is likely to be voter apathy. After a busy political season, voters may have had too much.

"This is sort of like going to a bar. And the liquor may be great, but after the eighth drink you're kinds of filled," said Green.

Monday's early voting turnout is a good example. Back in October, lines were long on the first day of early voting for the presidential election. But only a handful of voters showed up Monday at the 69 W. Washington location, including one of the candidates.

The Chicago Board of Elections says turnout for special elections is traditionally slow.

"We had people filing, and it only shook out more than a week ago as far as who was on or off the ballot. So it's just starting to gel right now and you have a congested field. So, it's only natural that voters may sit back and see how everything shakes out," said Jim Allen, Chicago Election Board.

And how are voters supposed to decide between 23 candidates? Early voter Marcia Bukala says she did her homework.

"I decided by the candidates I was familiar with and researched their websites and information I saw in the newspaper and online," Bukala said.

And, if you can't get to one of the candidate forums, looking on each individual web site is a good way to get to know the candidates.

The 5th Congressional District is located from the lakefront on the city's North Side and reaches out to some of the western suburbs.

The primary is March 3. The general election is just a month later, April 7.