As a result of a recent announcement, there will be a vacancy in Chicago’s top job, and the race has begun.
By Yussuf J. Simmonds
Sentinel Managing Editor
The race to succeed Chicago’s Mayor Richard M. Daley has become a major handicapping of politics. Since he announced that he will not seek another term, the media have been ripe with speculation as to who will succeed him. Leading the list of well-known possible successors is Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr.; former Senator/Ambassador Carol Moseley Braun; and President Barack Obama’s chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, a former Illinois congressman. At the top of the not-so-well-known list is State Senator Rickey Hendon.
At present, only Hendon and Moseley-Braun have officially announced their candidacies but the field has at least six more and counting. Rep. Jackson is currently favored by some analysts, mostly because there doesn’t seem to be another prominent African-American candidate to split the large Black vote in Chicago–though Hendon is African American, he lacks the name recognition that Jackson and the others have.
The other two leading contenders have not officially announced their candidacies, but the pressure is mounting, and one or both of them will have to announce his intention soon because there are six others thus far known, vying for the mayor’s job. The prevailing wisdom is that whoever eventually gets the job will need to have a reach that’s global enough to help Chicago companies put people to work. And those with a healthy reach in Washington, D.C. seem to have a jumpstart in the upcoming race, if they run, including the three of the four mentioned above.
Rep. Jackson said that he hasn’t made a decision whether to run and a call to his offices in the capital and his district office in Chicago did not generate any response. But his wife, who is a Chicago ‘alderman’ said, “We need someone with that kind of gravitas to steer our country into the future. My husband absolutely has that kind of gravitas. I think he is imminently qualified should he decide to pursue this,” she said.
When State Sen. Hendon announced his candidacy during an appearance on Fox News, he said that he is in the race to win and that he will reopen Meigs Field on his first day in office if he’s elected, as part of a plan to bring more business to the city which also includes bringing a riverboat casino to the city. (Daley drew criticism in 2003 when he shut down Meigs Field overnight so the small lakefront airport could be turned into a park).
“I’m in all the way,” Hendon said. “Somebody’s gotta fix this mess and I think I am qualified to do it.” He also had an interesting analogy for the grassroots campaign he planned to run. “I’m like the black Sarah Palin,” Hendon said. He had campaigned unsuccessfully for Illinois lieutenant governor earlier this year running a hilarious radio ad that garnered him some unusual attention.
As the first and only Black U.S. Senator, Moseley already has a unique place in U.S. history. If she is successful in her quest to become mayor of Chicago, she will garner another historical notch: not only as the first Black woman mayor of Chicago, but as the first woman period. She has stated, “I will begin a conversation with the people of Chicago about the course our city is going to take and the direction that we’re going to go in going forward.”
But she also took a swipe at the first Black man who was the mayor of Chicago, Harold Washington saying that she does not want anything resembling the “Council Wars” of the Harold Washington era. “If this becomes a divisive, one side of town against the other election, then whoever wins the political wars will not be able to govern, Moseley-Braun said, “I will have no part of a divisive campaign. A city divided against itself cannot thrive.”
There has been no word from Emanuel but he appears to be a step closer to declaring himself a candidate. And recently President Obama weighed in on a possible Emanuel candidacy on ABC’s Good Morning America. He said, “My expectation is, he’d make a decision after these midterm elections. He knows that we’ve got a lot of work to do. But I think he’d be a terrific mayor.”
Rep. Danny Davis of Illinois, who is African American, is also leaning towards making a decision to run, according to news reports.
So there might be another Black mayor of Chicago in the foreseeable future and he or she will be standing on the shoulders of the Honorable Harold Washington.