Monday, November 8, 2010

Where’s the mayoral consensus?

Rep. Danny Davis, D-Ill., is now the officially designated African-American candidate in the running for mayor of Chicago. Not that the “honor” is going to amount to much come Election Day.

DAVIS: Does his 'endorsement' matter?
A coalition of activists, ministers and political people who all have an interest in seeing a black person become the successor to Mayor Richard M. Daley has been spending its time in recent weeks interviewing candidates – trying to pick who they think would be the best bet to win in 2011.

THEIR HOPE WAS to pick an African-American mayoral hopeful, get the bulk of the African-American electorate to back their choice, and by coordinating such unity could have a chance of actually defeating anyone else who decides to run for what could become a free-for-all.

So they wound  up picking Davis – who back in 1991 tried challenging Daley himself, only to become one of the masses of people who got their electoral butts whomped in a Chicago mayoral campaign by Daley.

I’m not sure what is more ridiculous; the fact that Davis is going to be far from the only African-American candidate following a process that was supposed to give him a sense of exclusivity? Or is it the process itself that initially rejected Davis, but then reconsidered him when it became apparent how foolish they were behaving?

On the latter point, it is because that coalition let it be known at one point that they had their process narrowed down to two candidates – former Sen. Carol Moseley-Braun and Cook County Board of Review member Larry Rogers.

CONSIDERING THAT ANY campaign by Moseley-Braun is going to get tied up in all the baggage of her personal story (her ex-boyfriend, her mother’s receipt of Medicaid, etc.), there was a very real chance that this lengthy, detailed process to put up a united front by African-American voters  would have wound up making the announcement that “Larry Rogers” would be their preference for mayor.

To which, Chicago would have responded, “Who?” Then, it would have yawned and moved on to other candidates.

Hence, Davis got the pick. He is a former alderman and county board commissioner, before moving “up and out” to Congress following the 1996 elections. He is the big politico from the West Side. He sounds as credible a candidate as anybody else will in this free-for-all of a mayoral election to take place.

And maybe he’d like to have an option beyond Congress. Because the reality of reapportionment in Illinois is that the Latino population has risen to the point where there probably should be two congressional districts designed for such representation – and the easiest way to achieve that “goal” is to do away with Davis’ district (which will run into significant opposition).

SO DAVIS IS now the “official” black candidate, as chosen by the coalition, which has failed. Not that it ever had a chance to succeed. The reality of political ego means that some of the people who appeared before the coalition made it clear they’re running for mayor, regardless of what that activist body had to say.

Moseley-Braun, who lost out on getting the coalition’s endorsement, went so far this weekend as to open her campaign office – picking out a space in the Bronzeville neighborhood that gives her both cheaper rent than a downtown location AND a symbolic tie to the African-American Chicago of old.

We also have soon-to-be former Sen. Roland Burris, D-Ill., making it clear he is very interested in running for mayor (if we could only get Circuit Court Chief Judge Tim Evans and Rep. Bobby Rush, D-Ill., into the mix, we’d have the bulk of Daley’s challengers trying to be his successor).

Davis is also going to have to take on Rev./state Sen. James Meeks, D-Chicago, saying he plans to be a candidate, hoping that his far South Side mega-church with its 20,000-member congregation gives him a solid base of supporters from which to begin a campaign for city-wide political office.

THERE’S EVEN PATRICIA Van Pelt Watkins, who may be a political unknown but claims to have already raised some $400,000 for her mayoral campaign, and seems to be playing off the theme of being a “new voice” for our city.

There may well be other African-American officials who decide to get into the mix – perhaps even Larry Rogers, who won’t let the fact that the coalition didn’t pick him stop him from filing nominating petitions with his name on them.

That is the one good part of this political process. The time to actually file those petitions is next week. From Nov. 15 through Nov. 22, candidates will have to either “put up or shut up” when it comes to being a candidate for mayor.

Which means that after next week, there won’t be any more speculation about IF a person will be a candidate. They either are or aren’t, then we can move on to the part of the process by which the candidates have their followers challenge the legitimacy of their opposition – in hopes of knocking a person or two off the ballot to try to bolster their own chances of winning.

THERE IS ONE aspect that strikes me as bizarre.

Since it is obvious there will be several African-American candidates in this campaign, it is ironic that things are shaping up thus far for there to be only one significant white candidate in this campaign – former White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel.

There still is time for someone else to get into the mix. But how ironic would it be if the candidate choice for mayor next year becomes Emanuel and a slew of African-American candidates?

In short, the exact opposite of what that coalition had hoped would occur to begin with.



Anonymous said...

I think that the coalition has done more harm than good. I am sure that they have lost the trust of many. They can't make a solid decision. We are looking for a candidate that we can trust. if you can't trust the people promoting the candidate. What makes you think that we can trust the candidate?

Steph said...

I agree with Anonymous that the coalition may have done more harm than good. Their whole process of "finalists" and whatnot has made their decision seem more like a beauty pageant than anything else. And Braun and others are sure to continue their runs (with or without the coalition's support), so in effect the coalition has split the African American vote/community.