Sen. James Meeks has ended his campaign for mayor of Chicago.
The Illinois state senator and South Side reverend said his withdrawal was a move to "lead by example." He said he'd requested the other African Americans in the race to also bow out "in the interest of unity and for the greater good of our community."
Those candidates include Sen. Danny Davis, Carol Moseley Braun and Doc Walls.
"...as long as our community remains divided and splintered -- to the specific advantage of the front-running, status quo candidates -- we will never see things improve. We need to speak with one voice," he said.
But for all his talk of unity, he was seen by many as a divisive figure. He drew the ire of Chicago's gay community when he was the sole Democrat in the Illinois Senate to vote against a bill granting civil unions. And he made moves last week to tamp
the firestorm created over comments he'd made about minority contracts and the groups that should be eligible for them.
Meeks spokeswoman Tasha Harris said the senator won't be making any further statements and will be spending the holidays with his family.
The passionate leader of Salem Baptist Church of Chicago declared his candidacy in mid-November.
Following Meeks' announcement, Rahm Emanuel released a one sentence statement:
"Senator Meeks has long shed a light on the need for fundamental reform in our education system that puts students first and empowers community members to create change, and his voice will be welcomed in this dialogue as we all work together to strengthen our schools."
Later, candidate Miguel del Valle released a statement calling Meeks a "friend whose history of public service I respect."
"Sen. Meeks has admirably been engaging with voters on the issues that matter to them the most, including in the numerous forums we have already had to this point. I encourage Sen. Meeks to continue to work hard to improve education in the State of Illinois when he returns to Springfield. I wish him the best," he said.
Meeks' full statement:
One hundred fifty years ago, as he paraphrased Jesus in the New Testament, one of the greatest Illinoisans of all time, Abraham Lincoln, stood before the people in Springfield and said “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” My friends, I come before you today to say that our City – and our community – is divided. And it, too, cannot stand.
We all know the major problems that confront our City: jobs are far too scarce, and often lack the basic benefits that families need to survive. Our unemployment rate as a city is unacceptably high; among certain segments of the African-American community, it is shamefully and embarrassingly high.
Our city’s budget is not merely under water; we are drowning in red ink.
Our neighborhoods are not being treated equally. Certain neighborhoods – and you know which ones – receive disproportionate attention and resources from City Hall, while others – especially those on the South Side and the West Side – always seem to be last in line.
Making matters worse, our school system is completely broken. Our children do not enter our schools less intelligent than their suburban neighbors, but they too often leave that way. Too many children are unable to read, write and do basic arithmetic; too many more find themselves with basic skills but utterly unqualified to perform the high-tech, high-wage jobs our City needs to prosper.
But above all, the biggest problem is one of vision. Our city’s leadership seems to be colorblind; in my judgment, they simply do not seem to notice people of color. African-Americans comprise more than 40% of our city’s population, yet we get only 7% of minority contracts. Not 7% of all city contracts; 7% of MINORITY contracts! We are overlooked and under-represented.
Tax increment financing funds, or TIF funds, as they are known, are distributed almost exclusively to downtown and predominantly wealthy neighborhoods, while African-American areas often lack the basic neighborhood essentials – things as simple as a local grocery store. We are overlooked and under-represented.
These are the problems that led me to announce my candidacy for Mayor, in hopes of uniting those throughout the City who know that we can – and must – do better.
Unfortunately, though, our house is divided. I have met with each of the four other African-American candidates and urged them in the strongest terms to consider withdrawing from the race in the interest of unity and for the greater good of our community.
It is long past time that we build on the tremendous successes of the great Harold Washington and his administration by electing another African-American to become our mayor. But as long as our community remains divided and splintered – to the specific advantage of the front-running, status quo candidates – we will never see things improve. We need to speak with one voice.
So, even as I continue to believe that I would be both the best prepared and the most electorally viable candidate in this race, I have chosen to lead by example. I am hereby announcing my withdrawal from this race, and am urging the other African-American candidates to do likewise.
In so doing, I am endorsing no one person; rather, I am asking all of the African-American candidates to subordinate their own candidacies to the greater good of our city and our community, and submit to a caucus of clergy, elected officials, and residents whose sole purpose shall be to winnow the remaining field down to one candidate. Under no circumstances will I be a candidate for Mayor this year; I want to be a part of this process, and there should be no question about my motives.
My whole adult life I have lived in the service of others. As a pastor, husband, father, state senator and community activist, I have worked for the betterment of others and the betterment of our community. I will continue this work each and every day, regardless of the outcome of this race. I urge the other candidates to follow my example, and put principle ahead of politics, and the community’s greater good over their own personal ambitions.
I want to say a final word: thank you. To my wife Jamell and my children who have stood with me throughout this campaign and made repeated sacrifices, thank you. To my staff who gave up good jobs to join our cause and who have worked so tirelessly to advance it, thank you. To our many volunteers who have epitomized grace and spirit as they generously gave of their time to help make our city better, thank you. To our donors, who generously gave of their funds to help make this campaign possible, thank you. And, especially, to all of the people of Chicago who supported us with their prayers, their wisdom, and their hopes, thank you. Our work is far from finished, and our lives continue with equal determination and purpose.
May God bless you, and may He bless all of the people of the great City of Chicago.