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Abstract

Theories of machine politics predict relationships between politics and public policy based on politicians’ and constituents’ alignment with the machine coalition. However, few attempts have been made to examine the validity of these predictions in the post-machine era of politics in Chicago, the quintessential “machine city.” Using a series of regression models drawing on election results and public expenditure data, I show that electoral competition, conditioned by prevailing circumstances in post-machine politics, does not exert a significant influence on municipal spending. More intense competition in aldermanic elections, as indicated by parity of campaign spending and wider distribution of votes, does not significantly increase tax increment financing (TIF) expenditures. These results should inform our understanding of municipal politics in the post-machine era. Efforts to reform Chicago elections should seek not only higher levels of competition, but also stronger electoral accountability mechanisms to promote effective governance in a more competitive electoral environment.

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