Why Community Leaders are Peeved at Rahm

The 49th Ward Democratic Party’s Endorsement Session is a must-attend for would-be governors and senators. Pat Quinn has attended. So has Dick Durbin.

This weekend, though, only half the mayoral candidates showed up. Carol Moseley Braun skipped the event entirely, reportedly because she didn’t want to be in the same room as Patricia Watkins. Rahm Emanuel sent a proxy, County Board Member Larry Suffredin.

According to Democratic Committeeman David Fagus, Emanuel had a “scheduling conflict.” The conflict? An Early Voting Rally at Charmers Café on Jarvis Avenue -- only four blocks from where the ward’s Democrats were meeting.

Emanuel appeared outside the coffee shop around 11 a.m., jumped onto a soapbox, delivered a three-minute speech to a crowd of 40 people, then drove off.

“Iit’s very interesting that he’s in the ward today, but did not come to the event,” said Michael James, president of the 49th Ward Democratic Party, who was wearing a del Valle pin. “I take that as a direct snub of the organization, and I’m not sure why he did it. Maybe he felt he wouldn’t have support here, but a number of people were prepared to vote for him, and a number of people did. He actually came in second.”

Coming in first was Miguel del Valle, whose “Chicago is ready for reform” speech won him 50 percent of the membership’s vote. (Del Valle needed 67 percent for an automatic endorsement. The matter now goes to the party's board.)

Skipping community forums has been standard practice for Emanuel, who prefers to campaign in controlled situations where he won’t have to answer tough questions. Most of the people who attend these events are community activists. They consider Emanuel a tool of suburban millionaires and downtown businessmen, and they think the only Little Guy Rahm Emanuel is looking out for is…Rahm Emanuel. So why should he bother? Emanuel has F.U. Money, and has so far used it to skip forums by the AIDS Community Forum, Rainbow Push’s Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Breakfast, the Union League Club and the Northwest Side Chamber of Commerce, among many others.
On Tuesday, Emanuel will skip the Pan-Asian Voter Empowerment community forum. Del Valle, Moseley Braun and Gery Chico will attend. The organizers are especially miffed because Emanuel will be holding a fundraiser for Korean-American supporters that evening -- thus cutting into the forum’s audience.

“It is unacceptable that the Emanuel campaign would use these tired and divisive tactics to pit us against one another,” Sik Sohn, executive director of the Korean American Resource and Cultural Center, said in a press release. “Our grassroots effort at educating our community is being thwarted by a small group of donors.”

In a Sun-Times profile this weekend, Emanuel pointed out that he’s met the public at 90 "L" stops so far. And that Rahm Emanuel is not going to let community organizers tell Rahm Emanuel how to campaign.

“I’m having a direct conversation with the public,” he said. “This is not about forum. It’s about format, and I chose the format I’m doing.”

The Emanuel campaign provided a list of debates Emanuel has attended or will attend: Chicago Tribune, WTTW Mikva Challenge, WGN/Tribune, Chicago Defender, FOX/Urban League, WTTW, ABC-7/League of Women Voters.

All are sponsored by media outlets and moderated by journalists, and most are televised.

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