From Robert Taylor Homes to the White House?

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Deval Patrick (Photo by John Trotter MAPS for The New Yorker) and Michael Bloomberg (Bloomberg Philanthropies Flickr)

Chicago native and former Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick announces run for president in 2020

By Erick Johnson

Another Black man from Chicago is running for the White House. If he wins, it would be a far cry from his childhood in the demolished Robert Taylor Homes.

Former Governor Deval Patrick of Massachusetts on Wednesday, November 13 told senior Democrats that he will enter the presidential race, joining a field of candidates that in recent weeks whittled down to an all-white field that began with several Black candidates.

Patrick threatens to take away many Black voters from front runner former Vice President Joe Biden, and damage the political hopes of Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren and South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, both of whom are struggling to court people of color.

Patrick is expected to begin his campaign with a video before appearing in person in New Hampshire to file his paperwork to be on the primary ballot there.

Born in Chicago, Patrick was raised by a single mother in the notorious Robert Taylor Homes public housing projects. While in the eighth grade, Patrick was recruited into a program called A Better Chance, which provided scholarships to inner city students. He attended an elite private school, Milton Academy outside of Boston.

Despite his hard life, Patrick earned degrees from Harvard and Harvard Law School. In 2007, Patrick was elected as Massachusetts’ first Black governor.

Patrick last year announced plans to run but reversed his decision after traveling to several nominating states as the field of Democratic candidates grew.

Last week billionaire Michael Bloomberg entered the Democratic race for president when he recently met the deadline to file for the primary in Alabama. The latest reports say he will file for the Arkansas primary during the all-important Super Tuesday on March 3, 2020.

Bloomberg won’t need to do any fundraising. He’s got the money and the big name. With just four percent of poll voters, Bloomberg so far lacks the popularity that’s needed to overtake Democratic opponents, former Vice President Joe Biden, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren or even Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders.

Bloomberg may have a difficult time wrestling those Black voters away from Biden and Patrick. He has the same problem as Pete Buttigieg, another presidential candidate who is struggling to draw Black voters after firing South Bend’s first Black police chief nearly a decade ago.

Many Blacks may remember Bloomberg as the man who for 11 years as mayor of New York, spearheaded a massive Stop and Frisk campaign that at its peak stopped 685,724 people, many of whom were Black and Hispanic residents in New York City.

Ninety percent of stops did not find any guns or weapons on unsuspecting residents. Records of these individuals were kept in a comprehensive police database. However, the state outlawed the electronic records of the innocent, despite strong objections by Bloomberg and his police chief.

In several surveys, a majority of white New Yorkers approved Bloomberg’s policy.

Bloomberg justified the policy, saying it helped reduce violent crimes in the city and without it, crime would soar. These claims were proven false in a study by a Columbia University law professor.

In 2013, a federal judge said the Stop and Frisk policy utilized “indirect racial profiling” that violated the constitutional rights of racial minorities.

To this day Bloomberg, has not expressed any regret or remorse for his Stop and Frisk policy. In fact, he continues to defend it.

In addition to being unapologetic for his community policing policy, Bloomberg is a proud supporter of charter schools, many of which are predominately Black and Hispanic.

During most of his mayoral term, Bloomberg was a registered Republican until he switched to become an Independent in 1997. He switched to the Democratic Party just before he ran successfully for New York mayor in 2001 after his predecessor, Rudy Giuliani did not run because of term limits.

Bloomberg hinted at running as an Independent in 2016, but decided not to, fearing that it would hurt Hillary Clinton’s chances of defeating Republican candidate Donald Trump in the General Election.

Bloomberg in several reports said he decided to enter the race after watching Biden stumble in debates and several polls. In entering the political arena late, Bloomberg avoided the many Democratic debates where race and inequality took center stage and gave viewers a clearer picture of where candidates stand on issues. With his adherence to his Stop and Frisk policy, Bloomberg would have added more heat (and perhaps drawn more heat) to the Democratic debate.

The Black vote has become a prized segment in the Democratic nomination. So far, Biden has largely won the support of people of color.

Sanders in the 2016 Democratic Primary appealed to Black millennials. Warren and Buttigieg have appeared in Black churches as they continue to struggle to lure Black voters to their campaign rallies.

The real test will come February 29, when South Carolina holds its Primary three days before Super Tuesday.

For Bloomberg, the question is, can he win over Black voters during his Democratic campaign without renouncing his past policy on community policing?

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