Mayoral campaign gets heated as polls show a close race, 1 in 5 voters undecided

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CHICAGO — With eight days to go until Chicago's mayoral election, it’s getting feisty on the campaign trail.

Chicago voters will see more than a dozen names on the ballot in February, but a recent poll from NBC-5/Telemundo shows a close race where at least six of them have a shot at making a run-off. Toni Preckwinkle is at the top with 14 percent, followed closely by Bill Daley with 13 percent. Susana Mendoza is at 12 percent, Lori Lightfoot is at 10 percent, Gery Chico is at nine percent and Amara Eniya is at seven percent of the vote.

“There’s lots of polls, and there’s rumors of polls every hour on the hour, but I think there’s no question: there’s 14 candidates, we’ve never seen anything like it," Bill Daley said.

Another televised forum scheduled for Monday night will feature five candidates — Paul Vallas, Willie Wilson, Toni Preckwinkle, Bill Daley and Susana Mendoza — who showed strength in earlier polling.

Illinois Comptroller Susana Mendoza viewed the NBC-5/Telemundo results as a positive sign that she could make it to the run-off.

“We’re statistically tied for first and second place and that’s what it’s felt like the whole time. I’m just so focused on being the mayor of this city so I can take Chicago into the future, and I’m focused not just on the next four years, but the next generation," Mendoza said.

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As the candidates make their closing arguments, the gloves are off.

A Toni Preckwinkle ally crashed a news conference hosted by Lori Lightfoot Monday morning. Lightfoot was using the appearance to call out State Representative Rob Martwick (D-Chicago) for his proposal to make the Cook County Assessor an appointed position when Martwick himself came out to challenge Lightfoot directly.

"This sort of Trump style where you’re trying to draw attention to yourself without assessing the facts shows exactly why you’re wholly unprepared to be mayor of the City of Chicago," Rep. Martwick said.

The current assessor, Fritz Kaegi, won the post last November by defeating powerful Democratic Party boss Joe Berrios. Berrios was accused of presiding over a property tax system that benefited downtown skyscrapers at the expense of poor homeowners.

Lightfoot said it’s wrong to take away voters’ power to choose the assessor, and accused Martwick of supporting the measure because it would benefit him as a tax appeals lawyer.

"This is Rob Martwick, exhibit A of the broken and corrupt political system," Lightfoot said.

Martwick called the charge "abjectly false," and as the testy exchange continued, Lightfoot asked whether Preckwinkle told Martwick to confront her during the press conference.

Later, Preckwinkle sought to distance herself from the controversy on Twitter, saying: "The Cook County Assessor is, and should continue to be, an elected position."

Across town Monday, Paul Vallas took aim at some of his mayoral rivals. The Chicago Teacher’s Union has endorsed Preckwinkle for mayor, but the former CPS CEO says rank and file members are with him.

"It’s my understanding the vote was very divisive," Vallas said.

Vallas also picked apart Bill Daley’s national resume as Commerce Secretary for Bill Clinton, Barack Obama’s chief of staff and Al Gore’s presidential campaign chairman.

"Daley gave us NAFTA... He lasted less than a year in the Obama White House. How did that work out?" Vallas said. "We all remember the hanging chad... he gave us George W. Bush."

While others mixed it up, Gery Chico visited an early voting site as his campaign workers cast ballots. With six field offices spread out in the city, the City Hall veteran says his campaign’s ground game will help drive voter turnout.

“There’s been five or six polls in the last 6-10 days that show us in a statistical tie for the runoff spot, that’s all we’re concentrating on," Chico said.

Whatever the strategy, reaching voters is critical as the latest polls show one in five remains undecided.

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