The Money Race

Election Day is tomorrow. We've compiled fundraising data for the 18 aldermanic races and Mayoral race as of this weekend. 

Last week we released our second report looking at campaign finance in the Chicago Municipal Elections – you can read it here. We found that most cash fueling aldemanic campaigns came from big donors, and that the candidate with the most moeny won 93% of the time. We also took a look at three races where challengers had significant small donor bases, showing how a small donor mathcing program would help candidates – incumbents and challengers – with a base of grassroots support.

This weekend we pulled information current as of 4/4 to get another look at campaign fundraising as we get close to election day. We combined complete campaign finance reporting from 2014, with what is available for 2015: all contributions $1,000 or more directly to a candidate, and all expenditures $1,000 or more spent independently from candidates in directo support or opposition to their candidacy. For the purposes of arriving at a fundraising total, we counted independent expenditures against a candidate as for their opponent.

You can see our chart of all 18 aldermanic and the mayoral race here.

What can we tell from it? Here are some takeaways:

  • Close to $4.5 million dollars has poured into the 18 aldermanic since the February elections. Because we don’t have complete data for 2015, that number is certainly higher. That compares to roughly $5 million that went into those same races over an entire year leading up to the February elections. Since the February figures includes more complete data, we can say with some confidence that as much or more money has come into the aldermanic races since Election Day in February as before then.
  • All but one aldermanic candidates with a fundriasing advantage on 2/24 has a fundraising advantage now. In the second ward Brian Hopkins has gone from a 45K disadvantage to an 80K advantage.
  • In the 17 races where the candidate held their fundraising advantage, all but two increased their advantage. Gilbert Villega saw his advantage decrease by 10K but still maintains a 22K advantage over Omar Aquino. Mary O’Connor saw her advantage decrease by 86.5K but still maintains a healthy 73K advantage over challenger Anthony Napolitano.
  • Mayor Emanuel has a whopping $14.9 million advantage over Chuy Garcia.

We’ll have to wait untill tomorrow night to know who won and who lost, but it’s clear that big money is dominating Chicago elections.


Abe Scarr

State Director, Illinois PIRG; Energy and Utilities Program Director, PIRG

Abe Scarr is the director of Illinois PIRG and is the PIRG Energy and Utilities Program Director. He is a lead advocate in the Illinois Capitol and in the media for stronger consumer protections, utility accountability, and good government. In 2017, Abe led a coalition to pass legislation to implement automatic voter registration in Illinois, winning unanimous support in the Illinois General Assembly for the bill. He has co-authored multiple in-depth reports on Illinois utility policy and leads coalition campaigns to reform the Peoples Gas pipe replacement program. As PIRG's Energy and Utilities Program Director, Abe supports PIRG energy and utility campaigns across the country and leads the national Gas Stoves coalition. He also serves as a board member for the Consumer Federation of America. Abe lives in Chicago, where he enjoys biking, cooking and tending his garden.