When it comes to Chicago mayoral politics, do you believe in coincidences?
Some of you who’ve been watching the recent public dance of Luis, Chuy and Rahm may believe in coincidences. That’s unfortunate.
Because only children believe in coincidences, and a few opium-smoking poets, and perhaps the odd romantic fool.
But Chicago politicians don’t believe in coincidences. And Mayor Rahm Emanuel is a Chicago politician.
To Rahm, chaos is a ladder. He knows you should never let a good crisis go to waste. He believes in preparation, control, secrecy and himself.
And he wants no part of a Chicago political version of “Stranger Things.” Rahm does not leave anything to chance. He does not wish to live in the upside down.
Which brings us back to the delicate dance of Luis, Chuy and Rahm.
U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez announced he wouldn’t run for re-election, that he was backing Cook County Commissioner Jesus “Chuy” Garcia in a congressional run.
Garcia frightened Rahm by forcing him into a mayoral runoff in 2015. If Gutierrez hadn’t backed Emanuel , and if Emanuel hadn’t sat on that devastating Laquan McDonald video — showing a white cop shooting the black teenager 16 times until dead — until after the runoff, Garcia would be mayor today.
Now Chuy is on his way to becoming Congressman Garcia. And Luis is on his way to the rest of his life.
“I believe life is like a novel. And there are only so many chapters,” Gutierrez said.
So I’m waiting for the chapters about Luis going into the Puerto Rican real estate development business — using his many political contacts and making a fortune on his hurricane-ravaged ancestral home island.
All this leaves Rahm — at least for right now — without a credible challenger for the 2019 mayoral campaign. But without a credible challenger, Chicagoans might get the idea that nothing in this town is on the square.
So Rahm will have to find a palooka, a candidate to take a beating and fall down, a somewhat credible opponent who won’t punch him too hard to the body.
Chicago politics isn’t about speeches. It’s about arithmetic.
And for Rahm, that means doing everything he can to prevent Latinos and African-Americans from coalescing behind one candidate and running him off.
“He’s a surgeon; he’s artistic,” said a Latino Democrat at the Chuy/Luis no-deal news conference. “Rahm knows his business.”
At their news conference, Gutierrez and Garcia insisted there was no deal, no arrangement to make Rahm happy.
No deal, they said.
It just happened, I thought to myself.
Kind of like the time on the Charlie Rose talk show (remember him?) when then-presidential chief of staff Rahm Emanuel mentioned — as if by accident — that he’d really like to be mayor of Chicago someday.
And then Rahm’s boss, President Barack Obama, let Rahm come to Chicago and welcomed Bill Daley to Washington as his White House chief of staff.
And longtime Mayor Richard Daley moved to the political afterlife, where he couldn’t testify under oath in federal court about all the things he had done to the city.
Kind of like a fairy tale.
After the Chuy/Luis news conference, I walked outside and spotted one of Gutierrez’s business/political associates.
I asked him when the Gutierrez Puerto Rican real estate development company would be announced.
“You’re such a cynic, John,” he said.
Me? A cynic?
No. I’m not a cynic.
Years ago I wrote a series of columns about how Gutierrez, a former chairman of the Chicago City Council’s Committee on Real Estate, lived almost tax-free in a spacious, new Bucktown home.
Luis had a $340,000 house in the mid-1990s and paid only $274.42 in property taxes. The year before it was only $264 and change.
Luis’ home wasn’t even on the Cook County property tax records. It was listed as a vacant lot.
So I’m really not a cynic. I believe in miracles. Like the miracle of Luis, the heroic taxpayer.
But what I really liked at the Chuy/Luis news conference at Maggiano’s on Tuesday were two giant photographs flanking the lectern.
One was of a young, smiling Garcia with the late Mayor Harold Washington, Chicago’s first black mayor. The other was of a young, smiling Gutierrez with Harold.
Gutierrez mentioned the photos, how they smiled, how things were back in the day. And, Gutierrez said in that almost sincere way of his — when you know he’s half full of it, and he knows you know — that Harold was like a political father to him and Garcia.
“The two of us in the pictures, we’re like Harold Washington’s sons, you know?” Gutierrez said.
His sons, Luis?
Chuy, yes. But after Washington’s death, Luis made sure that Rich Daley was his daddy.
There are other Latino Democrats interested in the Gutierrez seat. They don’t like the idea of an anointed candidate, even a progressive like Chuy.
One is Chuy’s fellow Bernie Bro, Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa, 35th.
Ramirez-Rosa is circulating petitions. Like Chuy, he’s of the political left, but further to the left, even further than Democratic gubernatorial candidate Daniel Biss, if that’s possible.
Biss had tapped Ramirez-Rosa as his running mate but dropped him after the alderman’s harsh criticism of Israel’s foreign policy.
So there could be an interesting campaign for the heart and future of progressive Latino politics.
And where does all this leave Rahm Emanuel?
It leaves him in a good place. It leaves him just fine.
As if by coincidence.
Listen to "The Chicago Way" podcast, with John Kass and Jeff Carlin, at http://www.chicagotribuneem.com/category/wgn-plus/thechicagoway.