When I was researching my book about Barack Obama’s years in Chicago, I heard the same thing, over and over again, about Carol Moseley Braun: she had a chance to become the most important black politician in America, and she blew it.
Moseley Braun wanted to reclaim her Senate seat in 2004, but was talked out of the race by black leaders who told her she wouldn’t have the community’s support. John Rogers Jr., the investment banker who had raised money for Moseley Braun’s successful Senate campaign, was the bearer of bad news. Rogers went on to head Barack Obama’s fundraising operation.
That Moseley Braun is now the consensus black candidate for the more important office of mayor says more about the weakness of her competition than her standing in the black community. James Meeks is unknown outside the Far South Side. Danny Davis, who is 68 years old, has a history of quitting campaigns for higher office. When Obama got into politics, his goal was to become mayor of Chicago. If he’d shown a little more patience, and not grabbed the biggest available job he could get, he’d be the consensus candidate. If Toni Preckwinkle hadn’t run for Cook County Board President, she’d be the consensus candidate.
Al Kindle, a veteran of South Side political campaigns, says Moseley Braun may have gotten the nod because she’s the black candidate least likely to change the way things are done at City Hall. Her campaign is being run by two Daley veterans, Victor Reyes and Michael Noonan. She also has the support of John Stroger’s old 8th Ward crew, which is looking for a new political home.
“Those of us who know the mayor believes he has ins into Rahm and Carol,” Kindle said. “Carol is an insider who is black and Rahm is an insider who is white.”
Moseley Braun has a history of winning white votes, as a Hyde Park legislator, as Recorder of Deeds, as a U.S. senator. But she has to run as the black candidate for the next seven weeks, because that’s her only path to the runoff. She’ll then have five weeks to corral white and Latino votes. Whether she can appeal to any of those communities is still in question.
“There is a perception left over from the way she conducted herself in the Senate,” Kindle said. “What she needs to do is find a compelling message to change that perception. Both her campaign and Emanuel's campaign need to find a message to unify Chicago.”