After a small handful of interviews with Chicago political insiders, it's become apparent that LOTS of people may or may not run for mayor of Chicago.

The list of who's not running for mayor seems shorter than the list of who is, as Loyola political science Prof. Alan Gitelson put it.

Three names came up in conversation as would-be top contenders:

  • Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr. Jackson is known among insiders to have harbored mayoral ambitions, and he could command a strong African American base in an election. He was tarnished, to some degree, by the scandal over Rod Blagojevich's plans to auction off President Obama's former Senate seat. Jackson approached Blagojevich about being appointed to the seat, and Blagojevich was caught on tape referencing a pay-to-play scheme in which someone representing Jackson offered to raise $1 million for Blagojevich if he appointed Jackson to the seat. Jackson was interviewed by federal investigators but was not a focus of the probe, and he later denied any pay-to-play scheme, but he may have to overcome that episode in a race for mayor.

  • Congressman Luis Gutierrez Also known to have mayoral ambitions, Gutierrez actually took out papers to file for a bid earlier this summer, then decided against it. "As fun as it would be, I don't know if I want to do it knowing the odds are stacked against me," Gutierrez said. With Daley retiring, things may be different this time around. Gutierrez was also expected to retire from Congress in 2007, but changed his mind; if he thinks a GOP takeover could happen, that may serve as another reason to run for mayor. If Gutierrez tapped into Chicago's expanding Hispanic population for support, he could be competitive.

  • Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart¬†Perhaps the most serious contender not coming from a federal office, Dart would bring experience in local Chicago politics to the race. He's only served as Cook County sheriff for two years, and at 42 he's a younger member of the Chicago political class.

Other people to watch: Congressman Danny Davis, who told Roll Call he would neither rule himself out or in; James Houlihan, Cook County Assessor, who said in April he's interested in running; Forrest Claypool, who serves on the Cook County Board of Commissioners; William Daley, former U.S. Commerce secretary and brother of Mayor Daley, isn't a likely entrant but could win Daley's endorsement and machine support; Attorney General Lisa Madigan, who says she's not running; and Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett, also unlikely but an interesting name that's been aired in the Chicago media.

For a fuller list of who's in contention, see this post from Chicago Breaking News.

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