The election is not until 2012, but already a long line – including several potential Black candidates – is forming to become Chicago’s next mayor, now that Richard M. Daley has announced he won’t seek re-election.
The election is not until 2011, but already a long line – including several potential Black candidates – is forming to become Chicago’s next mayor, now that Richard M. Daley has announced he won’t seek re-election. At a Tuesday news conference Daley said it was time for him to leave. “Simply put: it’s time for me and it’s time for Chicago to move on,” Daley emotionally said. “Every elected official has to know when it’s time to move on. That time is now. It just feels right.” Daley will leave office as Chicago’s longest serving mayor. He was first elected in 1989 and previously his father, the late Richard J. Daley, had been mayor of Chicago from 1955 to 1976 before he died from a heart attack. Could Daley be succeeded by an African American? Several potential candidates think so. The only declared Black mayoral candidate is William “Dock” Walls, a community organizer who has unsuccessfully run for elected office – including mayor – several times. Walls had most recently campaigned as an independent candidate for governor, but recently suspended that campaign to announce his intentions to run for mayor. “It was time for him to get on his high horse and ride off into the sunset,” Walls told the Defender. “I was not surprised by his announcement. I expected this to happen. His exit helps me because now I can raise more money for my campaign, which had been difficult to do as long as he was running.” The late Harold Washington was the city’s only Black elected mayor. He was elected in 1983 and served until he was found dead in his office in 1987. Daley lost to Washington when the white vote got split in 1983 between Daley and former Mayor Jane Byrne. Now with Daley out of the 2011 race, the field is wide open. Two of the Rev. Jesse Jackson’s sons are rumored to be interested in City Hall. U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., D-2nd, has long been touted as a candidate. He issued a statement Tuesday talking about Daley’s successes and his shortcomings, but didn’t completely close the door on his own run for City Hall. “Regarding potential successors, I expect there will be numerous candidates, but only a few can mount a serious bid for mayor,” the congressman’s statement read. When his communications director, Andrew Wilson, was asked by the Defender if Jackson would seek the office, he responded, “We won’t have anything more today beyond what’s in the statement.” Chicago State University business professor Jonathan Jackson is also interested. “I had not seriously considered it before but now I am,” Jonathan Jackson told the Defender. “I will take a strong look at it and make a decision fairly soon.” Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th), once considered a potential mayoral candidate, said she is focused on her re-election right now. Hairston was recently praised by Daley as the city’s “best alderman.” “I am still running for re-election,” Hairston told the Defender. “The next mayor needs to be someone who will push for economic development throughout the city and not just certain parts of the city. Someone who will not sell city assets, someone who will not continually raise taxes and fees, and someone who can address crime.” U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush, D-1st, cautions both the potential candidates and the media to not rush to handicap the field. “On a political note I emphatically state that the next mayor of the City of Chicago will include a Black community agenda – one that addresses the quality of life issues within the Black community in a more poignant and purposeful manner,” Rush said in a statement. “Lastly, I must admonish the media to end its coordinated commentary on who will be the next mayor of the city of Chicago. Whoever that person will be will have to come through my community – and address my community and have an established record of working with my community on its many deep-seated problems. Before anyone is deemed an imaginary front runner in this particular race, they should pause and take that into consideration.” One politician who will not be a part of that field is Dorothy Brown, clerk of the Circuit Court of Cook County. “I am not running for mayor. It’s just something I have not thought about,” she said. “But I do think a Black candidate has just as good of a chance of winning as any other candidate if they are qualified.” Brown had unsuccessfully run against Daley for mayor in 2006. She also finished a disappointing third in the February primary race for the Cook County board president’s seat, besting only incumbent Todd Stroger by a single percentage point. And Ald. Anthony Beale, whose 9th Ward covers the Roseland community on the Far South Side, would not rule out a possible run for mayor. For now, though, he said he is focused on making improvements to his ward. “My concentration is bringing economic opportunities to the residents of the 9th Ward. But who wouldn’t want to be mayor of Chicago?” he said. President Barack Obama, who hails from the city’s Hyde Park neighborhood, praised Daley for a job well done. “No mayor in America has loved a city more or served a community with greater passion than Rich Daley,” Obama said in a written statement. “He helped build Chicago’s image as a world class city, and leaves a legacy of progress that will be appreciated for generations to come.” Copyright 2010 Chicago Defender (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green, File)