Things are certainly heating up in the race for Mayor of Chicago. Since I am not from Chicago (though my dad and other family members are) I am watching avidly as an outsider, since the mayoral race for Chicago, the third largest city in the US, behind New York and LA with a population of over over 2.8 million residents is not small peanuts.
The race is attracting even more national and international interest since one of the candidates is former Chief of Staff to President Barack Obama; Rahm Emmanuel.
Other contenders are former school board president Gery Chico and City Treasurer Miguel del Valle.
The two other African American candidates in the running have now dropped out and placed their support behind Moseley-Braun. This arrangement was reportedly brokered by Jesse Jackson.
Former U.S. Sen. Carol Moseley Braun toured South Side churches today as she seeks to consolidate support after emerging this weekend as the consensus African-American candidate for Chicago mayor. Speaking to a packed mega church headed by former opponent Rev. James Meeks, Braun portrayed the decision to back her as a surprising but “a noble” choice made by both Meeks and U.S. Rep. Danny Davis, who withdrew from the mayoral race on Friday and also attended the service. “Rev. Meeks decided that he was going to fight for his congregation and remain as pastor,” Braun said to thunderous applause. “Congressman Davis decided he was going to fight for the 7th Congressional District.” “So both of them chose to fight in their way and chose to send me to fight the battle to become the next mayor of the city of Chicago,” Braun said.
In her five minute speech, Braun highlighted her experience in local, state, national, and international politics as a reason for voters to support her candidacy. “I can bring the pieces together from across the world,” Braun said. “I can still walk on the floor of the United States Senate.”
Braun served one term in the Senate after winning election in 1992. After she lost a re-election effort, President Bill Clinton named her ambassador to New Zealand.
Braun’s church appearances came after Davis ended his mayoral bid on Friday, acknowledging that multiple black candidates would likely splinter, and therefore weaken, the African-American vote.
With this endorsement – there is now the potential for an interesting run-off in Chicago:
To say that Danny Davis’s withdrawal from the Chicago mayor’s race, and his endorsement of former U.S. Senator Carol Moseley Braun, changes the landscape is understatement. The emergence of one, and only one, strong African-American candidate in a field where no one is named Daley would be noteworthy under any condition. But for that candidate to be a history-making personality who now also happens to be the only woman in the race is an earthquake of far greater magnitude than the tremor felt in Chicago a few days ago. Effectively narrowing the field to four strong candidates, west sider Davis’s weight being thrown to South Sider Braun now makes clear what had always been true but not recognized by some: the ascendacy of Rahm Emanuel to City Hall, despite numerous advantages, is not an inevitability. Some other person, including Carol Moseley Braun, could be the next mayor of Chicago.
So far, this race had always been about the runoff. While Emanuel, with help of media coverage no other candidate enjoyed, surged to an early poll lead, no survey ever showed him with anything near the 50% needed to avoid a runoff. Mathematically, anyone who requires a runoff to win is theoretically vulnerable in that runoff, because, after all, most of the electorate voted for someone besides the person who comes in first. The question becomes who, of those who voted for someone else, re-aligns with whom, who stays home, and who comes out who didn’t vote in Round 1. Multi-candidate races have their own peculiar dynamics, and to some extent each is unique, but a common characteristic is their tendency to betray front-runners. Chicago is a paradox of political sentiments: we so often bow to power, but deep down almost always root for the underdog — that’s part of why Braun became Senator in the first place, and Barack Obama her successor. So an electoral snarl of “you ain’t the boss of me” is always a possibility. As voter resentment continues to play out against anything and everything connected with a power structure that many feel has abandoned the average citizen, that may prove especially true in Chicago in 2011.
A tricky part of that for Braun is that leaders such as Davis or Bobby Rush cannot “deliver” votes per se for Braun. Another trickbag is the extent to which Emanuel is seen as Obama’s man. But Braun’s emergence is likely to be seen as the result of a “process” that gives her candidacy an endorsement more valuable than any politician’s. By prevailing over two men of not inconsiderable political strengths themselves, charismatic preacher-politician state Sen. James Meeks and Davis — the latter practically an institution, a sitting Congressman with direct lineage to the Harold Washington coalition — Braun has also showed the strength that many look for in a chief executive. Barring any of the unforeseens that can occur in any campaign, Braun’s chances of making the runoff have now morphed from possible to probable.
Moseley-Braun is also the only woman in the race. Chicago has only had one female mayor, Jane Byrne, who served from April 16, 1979, to April 29, 1983.
Her bio from Wikipedia highlights the fact that she is the only black woman to have served in the US Senate:
Carol Elizabeth Moseley Braun (born August 16, 1947) is an American politician and lawyer who represented Illinois in the United States Senate from 1993 to 1999. She was the first and to date only African-American woman elected to the United States Senate, the first woman to defeat an incumbent senator in an election, and the first and to date only female Senator from Illinois. From 1999 until 2001, she was the United States Ambassador to New Zealand. She was a candidate for the Democratic nomination during the 2004 U.S. presidential election.
She has the potential to garner support from liberal women, and LGBT voters since she has a strong record in those areas of interest during her time in the Senate:
She was strongly pro-choice, voting against the ban on partial-birth abortions and the restrictions on funding in military bases for abortions. She also voted against the death penalty and in favor of gun control measures. Moseley Braun was one of only sixteen senators to vote against the Communications Decency Act and one of only fourteen to vote against the Defense of Marriage Act.
Her career in the Senate was not without controversy:
Moseley Braun was the subject of a 1993 Federal Elections Commission investigation over $249,000 in unaccounted-for campaign funds. The agency found some small violations, but took no action against Moseley Braun, citing a lack of resources. Moseley Braun only admitted to bookkeeping errors. The Justice Department turned down two requests for investigations fr
om the IRS.
In 1998, after George Will wrote a column reviewing the allegations of corruption against her, Moseley Braun responded to Will’s comments, saying that “I think because he couldn’t say nigger, he said corrupt,” She also compared Will to a Ku Klux Klansman, saying “I mean this very sincerely from the bottom of my heart: He can take his hood and put it back on again, as far as I’m concerned.” Later, Moseley Braun apologized for her remarks.
Though appointed by Bill Clinton to an ambassadorship, she has recently spoken out strongly against his becoming involved in the Chicago race, as did Davis.
Here’s video from Moseley- Braun’s announcement of her candidacy:
She was not a front-runner at the time of her announcement. It remains to be seen how the odds have now changed.