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Covering Chicago's nine political influencers

Rahm, the Black Community Didn't Get Any of Them Shovel-Ready Jobs

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    NEWSLETTERS

    A voter confronts Rahm Emanuel during his listening tour on the South side, arguing that the black community hasn't received any jobs from Washington. (Published Monday, Oct 4, 2010)

    Will Rahm Emanuel have difficulty attracting African-American voters?

    While on his listening tour Monday morning, the mayoral contender caught some flack from a Park Manor resident who sounds upset about the lack of jobs in his South Side community.

    "Why should we vote Democratic," asked the resident, who gave his name only as Paul. "Since the Democratic Party gave all the jobs to every ethnic group besides the African-Americans in their own community ... why should we vote Democratic now? You was in Washington, and it never reached us."

    In response, Emanuel said there hasn't been the investment necessary in African-American communities, and he asked Paul to sit down and talk about his concerns.

    Emanuel, however, does seem to face a challenge in the black community, where leaders are longing for a revival of the Harold Washington legacy, and are seeking a consensus candidate.

    As CNN's Roland Martin, a Chicago resident put it:

    African-Americans dominate five of the city's top 10 wards. And of the top 23 wards with registered voters, African-Americans control a majority in 12. Don't assume that Emanuel, being a Democrat, can easily win those. And if you're one of those folks who think it's wrong for me to focus on race, then you clearly don't get Chicago politics.

    It is an open secret in Washington that the Congressional Black Caucus despises Emanuel. A longtime caucus member told me that normally when they meet with the president, the chief of staff attends the meetings. But in the time Obama has been in the White House, Emanuel didn't attend one meeting, and has always given a cold shoulder to black members of Congress. And if you ask black political operatives, pollsters and insiders, they all have a "why-I-can't-stand-Emanuel" story.

    If he wants to win the mayor's race, just having the public support of Obama isn't enough. He is going to have to deal with Reps. Danny Davis, Bobby Rush and Jesse Jackson Jr. All three have massive ground troops, and if they are willing to rally around someone like the Rev. James Meeks, also a state senator (I attend his church, Salem Baptist Church of Chicago), who can also pull white social conservatives to his side, Emanuel can forget about getting a significant share of the black vote.

    Godspeed, sir.