Considering Chicago’s history of overspending, voters can rest assure their new mayor knows how to squeeze a dollar.

A Reporter analysis of quarterly expenditure reports from the Illinois State Board of Elections shows Mayor-elect Lori Lightfoot not only beat Toni Preckwinkle handily in the April 2 runoff, she spent just  $13.56 per vote compared to the Democratic heavy-hitter’s $45.85. But they have nothing on Bill Daley.

Who spent the most? Bill Daley. He spent nearly $7 million dollars in the first quarter of 2019 and received just 82,294 votes in the Feb. 26 general election. Counting all the money he spent during the campaign, that translates to $132 for each vote he won on Feb. 26.

Bill Daley for Mayor$6.9 million
Toni for Chicago$5.8 million
Lightfoot for Chicago$4.4 million
Gery Chico for Mayor$3.1 million
Friends of Jerry Joyce$2.9 million
Susana Mendoza for Mayor$2.8 million
Melissa for Chicago$1 million
Friends of Edward M. Burke$878,000
GMFM-Garry McCarthy for Mayor$444,000
Pawar for Chicago$667,000

Aldermanic panoramic: While the 14 candidates for mayor spent more than $38.5 million dating back to 2018, the candidates for alderman were also writing some big checks. The 133 candidates spent $23.6 million with Ald. Edward Burke leading the way. The longtime alderman, currently facing federal corruption charges, dropped more than $2 million since the beginning of 2018.

Turning a little water into a little wine: Though it wasn’t anywhere near enough to force a runoff in the third ward race, challenger Alexandria Willis was able to spin less than $2,000 into more than 4,000 votes. Incumbent Pat Dowell, who has represented the area that includes parts of the South Loop, Bronzeville and Fuller Park since 2007, took the race with more than 9,000 votes.

What is average, anyway? The average expense in an aldermanic campaign is just over $1000.  What isn’t? The 14th Ward, which includes Archer Heights, Gage Park and Brighton Park and is home to big spender Ald. Burke. A total of $2.3 million was spent in the 3-way race.

Who did it best? Over in the 17th ward, which includes parts of Englewood, Chatham, Gresham and Marquette Park, incumbent David Moore spent a little more $25,000 (including several thousand in “non-itemized expenditures”) on his win doubling challenger Reynetta Greenleaf’s vote total on Feb. 26. Moore’s spending helped him grab more than 5,300 votes, while Greenleaf, a patient care facilitator at Rush University Medical Center, won nearly 2,600 votes. Greenleaf showed no expenditures on her campaign committee reports.

Donations vs. donors in the mayoral duel: While Preckwinkle raised $7.4 million —  nearly $3 million more than Lightfoot’s $4.6 million — it did little to rain on her parade.

Lightfoot’s support came through a greater number of smaller donations, receiving 4,323 contributions compared to Preckwinkle’s 2,195 in the last year. Lightfoot’s average donation of $2,142 was also about half of Preckwinkle’s average donation of $4,211.

What did they spend it on? The simple answer: getting your attention. Between Jan. 1 and the Feb. 26 election, candidates for alderman and citywide offices spent $32.8 million — primarily on advertising. Heading into the Apr. 2 runoff, the slimmed down field spent just $12.4 million. The average expense was just over $3,000.

The biggest single expense was Bill Daley’s $1 million on TV advertising.

No alderman spent like Burke, period. He wrote the biggest checks, literally, to buy your time. “Buying Time, LLC,” a DC-based media company, received three six-figure checks from the longtime alderman. He also paid a production company $150,000 to round out the top-four biggest checks in the aldermanic race.

Buying Time$185,996
Buying Time$151,053
Alario Media$150,810
Buying Time$118,057

When did mayoral candidates spend the most? Feb. 19. One week before the general election, candidates spent a whopping $2.03 million. The Least? March 9th: Consider this the political spending lull: after the general election, but not quite crunch time for the final push to the runoff.

The top five recipients of spending:

Sadler Strategic Media $3,750,000
Canal Partners Media$3,088,466
Sage Media Planning and Placement$2,675,996
Snyder Pickerill Media Group LLC$2,532,841
Adelstein & Associates$2,411,912
ETHICA MEDIA$1,845,150

Where did Lightfoot’s funds come from? Chicago’s richest ZIP codes, developing neighborhoods, a couple of big money suburbs and the nation’s capital kicked in the most money for the mayor-elect. Lincoln Park and Streeterville topped the list with the West Loop, Logan Square, Lakeview and the Gold Coast all making appearances in the top 10. From the suburbs, donors in Willowbrook gave a half-a-million dollars in donations landing it at number three on the list and Winnetka, home of former Gov. Bruce Rauner, just squeezed into the top 10. The furthest money in the top ten donors list came express from Washington D.C.

Who raised the most for a spot on the City Council? Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd Ward), despite having no challenger on the ballot, raised the most since 2018: $1.3 million.

Final Takeaway? Lightfoot is the new Rahm Emanuel and she’s not going to get her way for free or this city ain’t named Chicago. With $397,782 of her campaign funds unspent, she’s got a light war chest but has shown that she can stretch a dollar. Following Rahm Emanuel’s runoff win in 2015, he had a little more than $446,000 on hand. In 2011 when the mayoral election did not go to a runoff, he had nearly $2 million on hand.

How we ran the numbers: The Chicago Reporter pulled campaign finance data from the Illinois State Board of Elections via ilcampaigncash, an open-source project by David Eads from ProPublica Illinois that pulls Illinois State Board of Elections campaign disclosure records into a relational database. The Reporter primarily analyzed expenditures from the first quarter of 2019, ending March 31, two days before the runoff election. (Campaigns are not required to report second quarter expenditures until July.) In some cases where indicated, the Reporter looked at expenses and receipts since the mayoral race began in 2018. We excluded receipts and expenditures that were marked as “archived.” The Reporter’s analysis only included committees specifically in support of candidates and not “political action committees” that may also serve to help elect specific candidates. Source data from the Illinois State Board of Election does not include “non-itemized expenditures” or reports filed on paper.

Matt is the data editor for The Chicago Reporter. Email him at and follow him on Twitter @matt_kiefer.

La Risa is a reporter for The Chicago Reporter. Email her at and follow her on Twitter @larisa_lynch.

Josh is a reporter for The Chicago Reporter. Email him at and follow him on Twitter @TheVoiceofJosh.

Asraa is the managing editor of The Chicago Reporter. Email her at and follow her on Twitter @AsraaReports.

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