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The Countdown: Del Valle Takes A Shot At Chico, Emanuel; Watkins Talks Transportation

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As the city slowly digs itself out of 20 inches of snow, one mayoral candidate tries to dig herself out of the bottom of the polls, one digs up some dirt on his rivals, and one digs his latest newspaper endorsement. That's right: with only 19 days left to election time, everyone's digging deep in this edition of The Countdown.

Stay tuned to HuffPost Chicago from now until February 22 for "The Countdown," a daily roundup of election news, gossip and other fun tidbits. You can also sign up to receive "The Countdown" via email daily by checking the "Chicago Brief" box here.

DEL VALLE TAKES A SHOT

Apparently deciding that Carol Moseley Braun is sabotaging her own campaign just fine, Miguel del Valle today took aim at Rahm Emanuel and Gery Chico for their ties to some old-school Chicago corruption.

Today, former Streets and San boss and Hispanic Democratic Organization leader Al Sanchez was sentenced to 30 months in prison for his role in a corrupt hiring scandal. As we wrote today, "Sanchez was convicted of forging resumes, falsifying ratings, and extending application deadlines to get jobs in his department for loyal workers in the HDO."

The HDO was founded in '93 to help drum up Latino support for Mayor Daley. Daley's chief of staff at the time: none other than Gery Chico. That wasn't lost on Miguel: "Gery Chico needs to explain to the public what his role in HDO was, from its birth to present day," said del Valle, in a press release.

Del Valle also pointed out that Emanuel used HDO foot soldiers in his successful run for Congress in 2002. "It has come to light that not only does Rahm Emanuel take contributions from companies contracted with the City, but he has also benefited from the same patronage system which he talks about reforming," he added.

Shockingly, neither Chico nor Emanuel has had a lot to say about their involvement with the now-defunct HDO.

WATKINS HOPES TO TRANSPORT

Despite having relatively sizable campaign coffers, Patricia Watkins has failed to make much of a splash in the mayoral race thus far. Part of the problem is institutional -- not considered a "major candidate," Watkins doesn't get to participate in the major mayoral debates or editorial board interviews.

She's hoping an ambitious transportation plan will garner her campaign some attention. WBEZ describes the plan:

Her proposal is far reaching: to redirect railroad lines currently on the street above or below ground, freeing both street traffic that will no longer have to wait for the trains to pass, and allowing the trains to go faster because they're no longer running through business and residential arteries.

"Currently, Chicago remains the busiest rail gateway in the U.S.," says Watkins, "accounting for one-third of the nation's rail traffic and resulting in 38,000 jobs and $22 billion in economic value to the region. But if our infrastructure isn't addressed, we'll lose as many as 17,000 of those jobs and millions in revenue."

Watkins' plan isn't just about preserving but about creating new jobs. "Not $10.35 an hour jobs but $35-$40 an hour jobs," she says.

She's a big subscriber to the CREATE program, a partnership between the state, U.S. Department of Transportation, Metra, Amtrak, the big railroads and the city.

"We're talking about creating more than two thousand full-time construction jobs," she said.

RAHM RACKS UP THE ENDORSEMENTS

The Chicago Sun-Times gave Emanuel the nod a few days ago; now, Crain's Chicago Business hops on the Rahmwagon.

The endorsement praises Rahm's pro-business policies, like an elimination of the head tax and a reduction of red tape for small businesses. And it also sees his time in Washington as a positive:

Mr. Emanuel brings something else the city needs: a broader perspective. Through his work in Congress and the White House, he has built a Rolodex of contacts around the country and the world.

Those contacts would raise the city's profile internationally, helping to draw jobs and investment to Chicago. His wider frame of reference would lead him to the best ideas on issues like education reform. Most important, it would attract the best and the brightest to top jobs in his administration.

But the editorial board caught some flak on its comments board for its headline, which describes Rahm as "a chance for a fresh start." The piece argues that he didn't come up in the Daley machine... but weren't we just talking about his ties to the HDO? Is he really "the most independent" of the candidates?

Enough editorializing, we'll leave that to the editorials. More next time, when hopefully the candidates have shaken the snow off their boots and gotten back to the campaign trail.