Voters Seem Unimpressed By Mayoral Debates

CHICAGO (CBS) — The mayoral debates so far seem to have drawn a collective yawn from many Chicago voters.

As CBS 2 Chief Correspondent Jay Levine reports, part of the problem is having too many candidates trying to cover too much ground and not enough time to do it.

Voters want to measure the candidates against each other and use the same yardstick for all of them. That means asking them all the same questions and, when they disagree, let them go at it.

That didn’t happen in the latest debate on Thursday and hasn’t happened much in any of the so-called debates.

When you think of political debates in Illinois, most people probably think of the Lincoln-Douglas debates, or the Nixon-Kennedy debate in 1960 – two person debates

There also was Harold Washington, Jane Byrne and Richard M. Daley debate, a three-candidate debate that provided lots of give-and-take and back-and-forth in 1983.

But the mayoral debate on Thursday with all six candidates running for mayor provided no give-and-take, no back-and-forth.

“I haven’t really seen any of the debates,” one woman said Friday. “Not interested because I think it’s the same stuff; they’re going to tell you what they think you want to hear.”

Candidate Miguel del Valle agreed that the format for the debates has been flawed.

“There are time constraints, but we need to go back and forth and to give opinions and react to each other’s statements,” del Valle said. “I think that that kind of format is what’s going to give the voters a good sense of who we are and what our vision is for the city of Chicago.

But in the five times the candidates have been on the same stage in front of community groups, editorial boards and reporters, there’s been little of that back-and-forth.

“If two candidates go at each other, that basically leaves out the [others] and that’s unfairness and you try your best to balance it,” Roosevelt University political analyst Paul Green said. “I’ve been the moderator and it’s not as easy as it looks, because you want to be fair.”

It has been that sort of format that’s left the voters unimpressed.

Many voters who spoke to CBS 2 on Friday said they’ve already made up their minds about the election.

But if people aren’t watching or don’t find the debates helpful, for those chasing frontrunner Rahm Emanuel, the debates are lost opportunities.

“That’s how they are that’s how they are formatted. You will look back and for the future decide this structure, this format of the six worked better than the others. Or this one really didn’t work or that one was better overall,” Emanuel said Friday. “People are not only wanting to know their ideas, they want to take a measure of the person. And that process is not one night, or one format, but is an arc of time of evaluation.”

With about a week and a half until the election, time is short for those chasing Emanuel.

With virtually all polls showing him at or near the 50% plus one needed to avoid a runoff election in April, overtaking him as the leading candidate seems out of the question.

The other candidates’ only hope at this point appears to be blocking Emanuel from achieving outright victory on Feb. 22.

  • greg

    Jay, no need to exclude Walls, Watkins, & and long shot Delvalle you could just slug the hell out of the three and Charles Thomas could smack them with his microphone; it be great for demoracy.

  • Chet

    The debate on Wednesday night was a little better because they had all the candidates answer the same questions. Here you were able to see which candidate really had a “real” plan for the different topics. The one thing that many voters, black and white, would have realized is that for the most part Emanuel has no real plan to help in solving the problems of the citizens of Chicago. As for crime in the black neighborhoods adding 1000 or more police is not the best solution for combating the problem. The department needs to have some officers get to know some of the young men and talk to them instead of talking at them and ordering them around. Arresting these young guys and sticking them with records is a huge part of the problem. The other solution is something some of those blacks that have children and teenagers need to take responsibility for the kids behavior.
    Emanuel just will just do what the current admin is doing and lock them up and ruin their records for petty stuff. He does not care about the the young kids and teenagers in the black community ( Not making any excuses here for any criminal behavior at all.)

    Emanuel is a freakin joke and I hope people realize it.

  • Awakened Patriot

    During the Persian Gulf War in 1991, Emanuel volunteered with the Israeli Defense Forces as a maintenance worker for military vehicles.


  • Awakened Patriot

    WHO IS RAHM EMMANUEL? “…the discussion turned to the topic of certain individuals who, in the estimation of Emanuel and his cohorts, had somehow betrayed the Clinton cause….. In a fit of anger, Emanuel, wielding a steak knife, stood up amidst his dinner companions and proceeded to stab the table repeatedly, screaming: “Nat Landow! Dead!…… Bill Schaefer! Dead!…”


  • Rob131

    Why doesn’t the Tribune or Sun create a simple summary of all the candidates including a summary showing what each candidate stands for with respect to big ticket items: budget, crime, taxes, schools, cta etc.??

  • Maggie

    The Trib and Suntimes have made a mistake in unwisely choosing Rahm as their pick. It is not the first time and it won’t be the last these papers have made errors. They have made a foolish choice which they are now supporting. The hapless reporters need their jobs and it seems are doing the foolish bidding of the head-in-the-sand editors. It is clearer than a beautifu,l glorious morning rainbow across the sky of Lake Michigan that Chico is and he always has been the better candidate. “Mayor Chico of Chicago!” has a nice ring to it. Chico, Chico, Chico!

  • Shane Truax

    Can someone explain what a mayoral race in Chicago has to to with Fox Network writers in California!!?!? And does Fox really pay that well that a family can contribute $500,000.00 to Rahm Emanuel’s campaign ( in three payments, of course)

    Saban, Cheryl
    Occupation: Writer / Producer
    Employer: Self-Employed10960 Wilshire Boulevard
    22ns Floor
    Beverly Hills, CA 90024 $100,000.00
    Saban, Haim
    Occupation: CEO
    Employer: Fox Family Network10960 Wilshire Boulevard
    22nd Floor
    Beverly Hills, CA 90024 $300,000.00
    Saban, Haim
    Occupation: CEO
    Employer: Fox Family Network10960 Wilshire Boulevard
    22nd Floor
    Beverly Hills, CA 90024 $100,000.00

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