When The Chicago Reporter wrote about Rahm Emanuel’s chances at a second term as mayor in the last issue of our magazine, the implications were clear: Emanuel had to maintain his strong support in the African-American community if he wanted to sail to victory.

Results from last night’s election show that Emanuel failed to do that, despite amassing more than $16 million in campaign funds. Although he won a plurality of the votes in all 18 majority-black wards in the city, his support dropped by about 16 percentage points, from 59 percent of the black vote in 2011 to 43 percent. (Note: The results are still unofficial, with some absentee and provisional ballots yet to be counted.)

That may point to the disenchantment of black voters with Emanuel that Catalyst Deputy Editor Sarah Karp captured in her story last November, or to the relative success of businessman Willie Wilson, whose self-funded campaign received 22 percent of the vote in majority-black wards.

But there are also signs that the mayor’s runoff opponent, Cook County Commissioner Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, may be making inroads in building the Harold Washington-style coalition of black, Latino and labor groups that carried his mentor to City Hall in 1983.

Garcia didn’t win more than one-third of the votes in any majority-black ward. But he outperformed Wilson in half of those wards. And, in total, Garcia received almost one-quarter of the vote in black wards, coming in second overall. That’s much better than the 15 percent that Latino candidates Gery Chico and Miguel del Valle received – combined – in majority-black wards in 2011.

Looking toward the runoff election on April 7, both Garcia and Emanuel are going to have to get out the vote, especially among their respective bases. Turnout this year was among the lowest in any Chicago mayoral election on record, around 33 percent as of Wednesday morning.

Voter participation dropped the most in majority-white wards, down nearly 13 percentage points from last year. But turnout was still even lower in the majority-Latino wards where Garcia is strongest. Participation fell nearly 8 percentage points to just 30 percent.

The focus for both candidates will likely be on the black community, where the 27 percent of the vote received by Wilson and Ald. Bob Fioretti are up for grabs – and could be the deciding factor on April 7.

Sources: Chicago Board of Elections; WBEZ; Chicago Tribune

Jonah is a reporter for The Chicago Reporter. Email him at jnewman@chicagoreporter.com and follow him on Twitter @jonahshai.

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