Coalition defends process for finding candidate

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It wasn’t until Friday that a group of Black elected officials realized that their consensus candidate for mayor had been sitting under their noses all along.

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It wasn’t until Friday that a group of Black elected officials realized that their consensus candidate for mayor had been sitting under their noses all along.

The seven-hour meeting, where potential candidates were interviewed for over an hour, identified U.S. Rep. Danny K. Davis, D-7th Dist. as the best mayoral candidate.

“Danny Davis was the only one who was honorable,” said Ald. Walter Burnett Jr. (27th), chairman of the Coalition for Mayor. “He was the only one willing to step aside and support our candidate had he not been chosen.”

The other three potential candidates the Coalition considered were state Sen. James Meeks, D-15th Dist., Cook County Board of Review Commissioner Larry Rogers Jr. and former U.S. Sen. Carol Moseley Braun.

In September, Mayor Richard M. Daley announced he would not seek re-election.

But the stated mission of the Coalition was choosing a consensus candidate to avoid having several Black candidates split the Black vote. Burnett acknowledged that has not happened.

“If Meeks, Braun and Davis all run we (Black community) lose,” explained Burnett. “It will undoubtedly split the Black vote and allow Rahm Emanuel to win. Clearly Meeks and Braun have the right to run and both of them are highly qualified to do so, but it is our hope and desire that they support the Coalition’s effort to elect Danny Davis as mayor of Chicago.”

Meeks and Braun told the Defender their decision whether to run was not dependent on being selected by the Coalition, and Rogers said he would step aside if not chosen.

On Monday Rogers released a statement confirming he would not be running for mayor in the Feb. 22, 2011 non-partisan election.

“After discussions with my family and close friends, I have decided to continue serving the citizens of Cook County as commissioner of the Board of Review,” the statement said in part. “While I have decided not to run for mayor of the city of Chicago, I will remain committed to serving citizens throughout Chicago and Cook County.”

“I think the difficulty they had in trying to choose one person reflects what I have said all along,” Moseley Braun said in a statement released Sunday. “Any candidate running for mayor of Chicago must have support from every community. I have a 50-ward strategy. I am seeking to build a coalition made up of voters from all over Chicago. I am listening to voters from every neighborhood. We will learn who the real consensus candidate is on election day.”

Burnett said both Braun and Meeks made their intentions clear when they met with the Coalition.

“Neither one had agreed to step aside and support our candidate if not chosen and that showed us (the Coalition) that they did not respect the process,” added Burnett, who also chairs the City Council’s Black Caucus. “But that alone was not the deciding factor but I am sure members took that into consideration when it was time to vote.”

The search for a consensus candidate by the group, which includes Black clergy, educators and community activists, began in October, in an effort to identify one candidate the Black community could support.

The process for selecting a candidate also included poll results the Coalition received from the business community and one on one interviews with each candidate.

And Burnett said it was Davis’ strong interviews that may have put him over the top with members, who unanimously voted in favor of him. Each of the four finalists met for over an hour with the selection committee and the full Coalition.

State Sen. Rickey Hendon, D-5th Dist., had sought the Coalition’s endorsement as well but dropped out last week. He was among the elected officials who attended last week’s meeting where he said there were members trying to push their own candidate.

“Members were angling for their candidate. You had South Side elected officials pushing Meeks and West Side officials pushing Davis,” Hendon said. “I withdrew my candidacy for mayor because I am all for unity, so I made the sacrifice of stepping aside to help move this process forward.”

Additionally, Burnett said Davis has the most city government experience, after spending 11 years as an alderman, and has shown he can win support from a diverse group of voters. Davis’ congressional district is made up of voters with various incomes and ethnic backgrounds and covers the West Side and western suburbs, parts of downtown, such as the Lakefront, and parts of the South Side. Davis easily won re-election on Nov. 2 for a seventh term in Congress.

According to Burnett, Braun lost support from Coalition members after saying she would not dismiss certain members of her campaign staff that the Coalition found questionable. The Coalition was also concerned about Braun’s long stint away from public office.

Braun, who was elected in 1992 as the first and only Black, female U.S. Senator, served as ambassador to New Zealand and Samoa, from 1999 to 2001, and launched her campaign for president of the United States in 2004 only to drop out January 2005.

For his part, Davis said he is happy he was chosen as the Coalition’s candidate.

“I am most humbled by their vote of confidence in me and will work hard not to let them or the people of Chicago down,” he told the Defender. “And if elected mayor I plan to immediately address three major issues facing Chicago. I plan to address the city’s budget; our public schools, which are in need of assistance, and the rising unemployment in Chicago.”

And while Davis said he has not asked Braun and Meeks to step aside he said, “I am hoping Meeks and Braun do whatever their hearts and minds tell them to do.”

The first day to file petitions for mayor is Monday, November 15, which Davis said he plans to do. Those candidates who file the required 12,500 petitions signed by registered voters on Monday will be placed in a lottery to have their name listed at the top of the ballot. The last day to file petitions is Nov. 22.

If no candidate wins 50 percent plus one vote in February then the top two candidates would face off in an April election and the winner would be sworn into office May 16.

Copyright 2010 Chicago Defender

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