Even though James Meeks was only pulling 3 percent of the vote in the last mayoral poll, his withdrawal still reshapes the race for Chicago's top job by reducing the field of serious black candidates to two: Danny Davis and Carol Moseley Braun. Here are four views on what the mayoral contest will look like without Meeks.
The 2011 race is an opportunity to seize City Hall by the largest voting bloc in the city. However, the leadership of the community cannot assemble and agree to a single candidate.
With the Meeks resign, perhaps one African American candidate will emerge, but I doubt it. I think they will fight it out and guarantee a win for Emanuel. But suppose, just suppose Emanuel looses his residency case in the Supreme Court. Then it indeed would be a significant game change.
The best thing for the Black community to do at this point is to formulate a strong Black Agenda and pitch it to all candidates. The race is now in the hands of Rahm Emanuel
Kirsten Mack and John Byrne of the Tribune say the withdrawal of one South Side black candidate will help the other South Side black candidate:
Meeks’ decision is viewed in Chicago political circles as helping the other two major African-American candidates, former U.S. Sen. Carol Moseley Braun and U.S. Rep. Danny Davis, because the black vote could be less splintered. A recent Tribune poll found black voters supporting Davis at 21 percent, Meeks at 13 percent and Braun at 10 percent, with another 30 percent undecided.
Geographically, Braun could benefit more — she’s now the only remaining South Side African-American candidate, with Davis hailing from the West Side. The city’s South Side historically has had greater voter turnout than its West Side. The city’s only elected African-American mayor, the late Harold Washington, hailed from the South Side.
I hope some ambitious University of Chicago sociology graduate student does her masters thesis on the search for a so-called “consensus” candidate among the marginalized black power structure in Chicago; it would make for a fascinating study in magical thinking.
“It is long past time that we build on the tremendous successes of the great Harold Washington,” Meeks said, trying to bow out with a little style and instead reflecting his lack of a grasp on historical fact. Washington was a dynamic guy, lovable and funny, but “tremendous successes”? Point to one. Point to one mild success of the Harold Washington administration, beyond making part of the population feel better about themselves. Other than that, Washington was pretty much stymied by the rebellious City Council — he could barely seat his appointees — for his entire first term, and while that wasn’t his fault, it’s nothing to engrave on a coin either.
Charles Ellison, of Politic365 wonders if Meeks made deal with Emanuel, as part of a strategy to gather black support:
There is considerable worry within the Chi-town Black political machine that it has not yet settled on a consensus candidate, a tall order for a community full of professional politicians in perennial search of glory. The argument is that too many Black candidates will pull the Midwestern Gotham’s Black vote in too many different directions, thereby cancelling out any chance of the first African American mayor since Harold Washington. But, few want to talk about recent polling numbers which showed all candidates, including Meeks, barely registering on the political Richter scale: Meeks was polling at 7%; former Ambassador and U.S. Senator Carol Moseley-Braun was scratching heels at 6%; Congressman Danny Davis is at 9%. Few want to say that it’s not so much failure to find a consensus candidate as it is to find a youthful, energetic Black charismatic candidate with the same charm and magnetism as the former political son of the Windy City now President of the United States.
Former White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel is barreling ahead at 32%. He won’t have to look back.
Politically, Meeks had little to lose by pulling out. The timing of it is impeccable: Meeks’ withdrawal came a good day after Emanuel’s go-ahead from the city’s electoral commission after a distracting residency requirement battle.
The move seems connected to Emanuel’s political fate and twist of fortunes with a leading Black voice in Chicago calling on everyone to pull out to make space for Emanuel. Questions arise: Did Meeks make a deal? Is Emanuel chipping away at Chicago’s Black political apparatus since the classic get-him-on-a-technicality move didn’t work? Or, did the inevitable (or something/someone else) stare Meeks’ down once he failed to back away from recent, controversial comments about minority contractors and scheming White businesses stealing city set-aside procurements?
Davis and Braun, at the moment, refuse to pull out despite Meeks’ gestures. But, with former President Bill Clinton expected to campaign for Emanuel in the next month, their political visions of Mayoral grandeur will soon fade to Black.