Reverend James Meeks
Mayoral candidate James Meeks on Thursday attempted to put out a political firestorm created over some comments the state senator and South Side reverend made a day earlier.
His opponents in the race, however, turned up the heat.
During an appearance on WVON radio on Wednesday, Meeks said that only African Americans should be eligible for city contracts set aside for minorities.
That comment had three rival candidates -- another African American, a woman and a Latino -- asking questions.
"It's not the way I want to approach being the mayor or running for mayor," said Gery Chico. "I want this city to be one Chicago. I want everybody in our city to prosper and everyone to rise."
The sentiment was echoed by Carol Moseley Braun and Rep. Danny Davis:
"He may correct his remarks, I don't know. But I can tell you my own history, my own background is one of inclusion and of supporting diversity," said Moseley Braun.
"My definition certainly includes much more than African Americans when I think of individuals who have been disadvantaged in this country," said Davis.
In an effort to clarify what Meeks meant, his campaign said he made the reference solely in the context of city Affirmative Action programs that he deems to be corrupt.
"Senator Meeks strongly believes all minority and women-owned businesses deserve their fair share of city contract opportunities," the campaign said in a statement.
But, it went on to say: "African American businesses are the most underrepresented among city contractors."
Meeks' campaign also alleged that there's an epidemic of lucrative city contracts going to businesses disguised as minority or women-owned. It's a practice he said he would end as mayor.
Mayor Richard Daley, when asked about Meeks' criticism, eluded that doing away with the program would be a mistake.
"The late Harold Washington started this. We kept the commitment, not just an executive order, but we followed with an ordinance," Daley said, according to the Chicago Tribune. "We're one of the few cities to uphold [a minority contractor program], and it's doing very well, and we're very, very happy with it, and I think that speaks for itself."