Soon after Mayor Richard M. Daley announced that he would not seek a seventh term, a group of African American leaders and clergy members gathered to nominate a "consensus candidate," someone who would represent the black community in the race for Chicago mayor. The "consensus" proved to be quite difficult, and even after Sen. James Meeks announced his withdrawal from the race, two well-known black candidates remain on the ballot.
U.S. Rep. Danny Davis--who was ultimately chosen by the city council's black caucus--and former U.S. Sen. Carol Moseley Braun are both hoping to win the city's black vote, but polls are showing the sole white candidate, Rahm Emanuel, leading them both. And with the election less than two months away, Emanuel is bringing in a heavy-hitter: Bill Clinton.
Clinton is expected to swing through Chicago in January to endorse Emanuel. When Rep. Davis heard about this, he issued a rather angry statement.
"While we recognize the right of any individual to endorse and support any candidate that they so choose, I am seriously concerned and disturbed by press reports that former President Bill Clinton is scheduled to come to Chicago to campaign for Rahm Emanuel, who is a candidate for Mayor," Davis said in a statement. "The African American community has enjoyed a long and fruitful relationship with the Clintons, however it appears as though some of that relationship maybe fractured and perhaps even broken should former President Clinton come to town and participate overtly in efforts to thwart the legitimate political aspirations of Chicago's Black community."
"We respectfully request and urge former President Clinton not to become involved in the Chicago Mayoral Election."
In other words: Back off, Bill.
Even though the mayoral ballot will be about as diverse as the city itself, the issue of race has continued to come up in recent months. Before he called off his campaign, Sen. Meeks enraged Asian, Hispanic and women's groups by saying that only African Americans should qualify for minority contracts. Meeks also accused Emanuel of keeping black leaders out of the White House. Braun's candidacy was mocked by Chicago Sun-Times columnist Neil Steinberg on Tuesday after N'Digo Magazine released a poll of black female voters that put her ahead of Emanuel.
"That's like me bragging that I beat Rahm Emanuel 3-2 in a poll of those sitting around my dining room table, if you take the joyous yip of the puppy as a vote for me," Steinberg wrote.
The column led to a Tuesday protest at the Sun-Times building. Mark Allen, a community activist and journalists, encouraged Braun supporters to join him in calling for Steinberg's firing.
"Protesters are calling for Steinberg's dismissal and are asking for a meeting with the Sun-Times editorial board regarding allegations that while the Sun-Times enjoys significant financial support from majority Black communities that the paper does not reflect the proper staffing of Black reporters or sensitivity when covering Black community issues," Allen said in a statement.
Emanuel's campaign has declined comment on most of the race issues that have come up in the campaign so far--which might be benefiting him.
According to a Chicago Tribune poll released December 14, Davis is backed by 21 percent of black voters, but just 2 percent of Hispanics and 1 percent of whites. The same Tribune poll gave Emanuel 32 percent of the vote--including 19 percent of black voters. Another poll showed Emanuel with 43 percent of the general vote, giving him a more than 30 point lead over all other candidates.
While it is unlikely that Clinton will listen to Rep. Davis and stay out of the Chicago mayoral race, NBC Chicago blogger Edward McClelland thinks that the crowded ballot and race-related drama will do nothing but benefit Emanuel:
"The whites have one candidate," he wrote Tuesday. "The blacks and Latinos have two apiece. Is it any wonder they're about to be outhustled again?"