The Search for an African American Mayor

And now there are four: four politically viable African Americans who may decide to run for mayor of Chicago.

State Sen. Ricky Hendon on Friday took his name out of the running at a City Hall press conference.

"I have come to the conclusion that my candidacy is not worth causing disunity within the African American community or consternation for those who really don't understand me," he said.

Hendon, while an effective and accomplished state legislator, was widely viewed as facing steep odds in his quest for City Hall, in part, because of his flamboyant style and his penchant for being irreverent and outspoken.

Hendon created a pre-Election Day dust-up when he called State Senator Bill Brady a racist and said the GOP Gubernatorial nominee would be a terrible governor for the state of Illinois.

"I've never served with such an idiotic, racist, sexist, homophobic person in my life," said Hendon at the time.

Arguably the political equivalent of uranium after his comments, Hendon failed to secure the backing of the support of The Chicago Coalition for Mayor, an increasingly influential group of about 200 African American business leaders, clergy and elected officials. The stated purpose of the Coalition, according to spokeswoman Tracey Alston, is "to provide a consensus candidate who can best represent all of Chicago."

The question is whether the Coalition can find that one African American candidate to endorse, and to do that soon. The filing period to declare Mayoral candidacies runs from November 15-22.

Thursday evening, at an undisclosed location, the Coalition will try to get closer to forming a consensus as it gathers to hear mayoral presentations from Rep. Danny Davis and the Rev. State Senator James Meeks. Both men made initial presentations to the Coalition's 14 member Selection Committee, but they failed to land on the preferred short list.

Instead, on October 27, the Coalition voted to accept the Selection Committee's recommendation of Ambassador Carol Moseley Braun and Cook County Board of Review Commissioner Larry Rogers as its "final 2011 candidates."

Behind the scenes, NBC Chicago is being told it will be "impossible" for the Coalition to unite behind one African American candidate.

"The black party is not a monolith, and those who pretend that we are, are just wrong," said an influential staffer for one of the candidates now under Coalition consideration.

That staffer cited the fact that a separate coalition of black business leaders publicly voiced its support for Rev. Meeks and Ambassador Braun.

The staffer said the Coalition, when it meets Thursday, will try to present itself as a cohesive unit, but that there a fractures within, along class lines.

"They'll all be in the same room, but they"ll never be at the same house party," the source said.

But Coalition member Dr. Robert Starks, a political science professor at Northeastern Illinois University, said the group will find a consensus candidate. He said it's critical for Chicago's African American community -- which comprises about 40 percent of the city's population and makes up its largest voting bloc -- to unite behind one candidate to give blacks here the best representation.

"African Americans have never in this city gotten fair representation without an African American sitting in the seat as mayor of the City of Chicago. The people of Chicago have never had a mayor who is fair to all the people, except for Harold Washington," said Starks.

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