Remember when Rahm Emanuel was the white candidate for mayor, and Carol Moseley Braun was the consensus black candidate?
When Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart dropped out of the race for mayor, many assumed that the Irish had held a secret meeting to ensure that Emanuel was the only non-Hispanic white in the field, ensuring him victory against two Latinos and three African-Americans.
Then state Sen. James Meeks and Congressman Danny Davis dropped out, ensuring that a united black community would propel Carol Moseley Braun into a run-off with Emanuel.
It hasn’t worked out that way. And the fact that it hasn’t may prove that this city has gotten over the racial politics that once earned it the nickname “Beirut on the Lake.”
First of all, Miguel del Valle and Gery Chico have each won the hearts (or the wallets) of a downscale white constituency. Del Valle is the candidate of white progressives. If you meet a white person who earns $32,000 a year as an organizer for a homeless advocacy group, look for the “del Valle” button pinned to her bike bag.
Chico is the candidate of blue-collar whites, especially city workers who are recoiling from Emanuel’s promise to cut their pension benefits. (And his ad telling those goldbricking snowplow drivers they’d better shape up and start providing a public service.)
Chico’s been endorsed by the police and firefighters’ unions. This afternoon, he’ll win the endorsement of six more unions: International Union of Operating Engineers, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 9, the Sheet Metal Workers Local 73, the Ironworkers Local 1, the Laborers’ District Council of Chicago & Vicinity and the Painters District Council #14.
This weekend, Chico visited Lakeside Development, on the old U.S. Steel site, accompanied by two aldermen. John Pope endorsed Chico. Sandi Jackson didn't, but the daughter-in-law of Jesse Jackson, who brokered the deal that made Moseley Braun the consensus candidate, stood beside the candidate.
Meanwhile, Moseley Braun isn’t sweeping the black community. The last Chicago Tribune poll showed her trailing Emanuel 40-39 among African-Americans. And that was before she accused Patricia Watkins of spending the last two decades “strung out on crack.”
Emanuel’s standing in the black community has been bolstered by endorsements from America’s first two black presidents, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. Rev. Ira Acree, pastor of Greater St. John Bible Church, told the Austin Weekly News he’s been vainly trying to unite his people behind Moseley Braun.
“Many people in our community, when you talk to people in barbershops and cafeterias, have this perception that they are somehow helping Barack out,” Acree said.
Al Kindle, an adviser to several South Side aldermanic candidates, says Emanuel is “doing better than one of would anticipate” in the black community, because of Moseley Braun’s failure to develop a message about what she’d do as mayor, instead of what she did as senator. The endorsements are also key.
“The percentage he gets is because of that,” Kindle said. “Rahm beyond Obama and Clinton is a zero in the black community.”
Emanuel needs black votes to make up for his loss of blue-collar whites to Chico, said Kindle. He estimates that Moseley Braun will win no more than half the black vote.
“If she gets 65 percent, it’s a runoff,” Kindle predicted.
Otherwise, he believes, Emanuel will win in the first round -- thanks to votes from the black community.
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