Door now open for big money in Chicago mayor's race

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Big money will now be a big factor in the Chicago mayor's race. (WLS)

Big money will now be a big factor in the Chicago mayor's race. A $100,000 donation to his own campaign by millionaire businessman Willie Wilson has now lifted the campaign donation limit. That has opened the door for wealthy donors to get involved in the race very early in the campaign.

Without Wilson's donation-- or another candidate receiving a similar gift-- individuals would have been limited to giving $5,600; corporations and labor organizations $11,100; and political action committees $55,400.

That could benefit the candidates who have money now.

"If you have people with great resources they can really kind of flood the market early and get established and develop the narrative and maybe at times dictate the narrative because of the costs," said political strategist Thom Serafin.

The field of those vying to claim the mayor's office is already numerous and expected to grow. Mayor Rahm Emanuel already faces challenges from Wilson, former Chicago Public Schools CEO Paul Vallas, former Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy, Chicago Principals & Administrators Association President Troy LaRaviere and tech entrepreneur Neal Sales-Griffin.

"You know I hate to say a certainty, because nothing is certain in this business, but the odds are good that you get to a run off," Serafin said.

But for Chicagoans, the early lifting of the donations limit could mean the campaign for mayor could be in their living rooms, smart phones and mailboxes a lot sooner, leading to voter fatigue with the election still almost a year away.

It's just more ads, more negativity, people are exhausted by the amount of political ads they see. I think it's felt almost like the 2016 election just went straight into 2018, it never really ended," said Sarah Brune, Executive Director, Illinois Campaign for Political Reform. "And now that we already have a very expensive general election on our hands this year the fact that this will just continue until 2019 may cause some fatigue for voters."

Sarah Grune with the watchdog group Campaign for Political Reform said it was just a matter of time before the donations cap was lifted by someone making the $100,000 donation.

But when you add the mayor's race to the general election for governor, voters could be bombarded with advertising of one kind or another from now until February and even after that if there is a runoff.
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