Congressman Danny K. Davis
Representative Danny K. Davis (D-7th) and former Chicago Board of Election Commissioners Executive Director Lance Gough on Thursday, January 19, warned that splitting the Black vote will result in the loss of an African American mayor, perhaps forever.
And, they weren’t alone. Rev. Paul Jakes, pastor of the New Tabernacle of Faith Baptist Church, and Robert Starks, retired professor emeritus of Northeastern Illinois University, echoed similar fears, with Jakes calling for a summit to arrive at a consensus Black candidate “to maintain our gains.”
With nine candidates running for mayor, seven of whom are Black, Davis said he’s seen this scenario before, and it doesn’t look good for the preservation of an African American candidate to win the mayor’s office. He was referring to the 1989 special mayoral election held two years after the death of Mayor Harold Washington.
With some Blacks supporting then-Alderman Timothy C. Evans (4th) and others backing former Alderman Eugene Sawyer, elected by his peers to serve as interim mayor, States Attorney Richard M. Daley won the unexpired term of Washington with a 14 percent margin of victory.
That division within the Black community was troubling to Davis then and now.
Today, the battleground for the Fifth Floor of City Hall has too many African American candidates whose mostly Black supporters are splitting the African American vote among mayoral hopefuls from the same ethnic group, warned Davis, who appeared Sunday, January 22, on WVON’s “ON THE CASE” talk show.
“It’s a recipe for failure,” Davis warned, referring to the election that resulted in the return of the Daley family to the Fifth Floor of City Hall.
Gough, who worked for the CBEC for more than 40 years and is a current advisor to the Board, said, “That is what is wrong with our community, we can’t get together. We can’t unite behind one person. If we lose a Black candidate for mayor, we won’t get one back. This is like Barack Obama when he left. Luckily, Biden stepped in, and the Black community went behind Biden, but what’s going to happen in 2024?” He asked referring to the next presidential campaign. “Who knows?
“I am very scary about this (mayoral) election,” Gough said. “The problem is you have some good Black candidates, some African American candidates who would make a decent, great mayor.”
Gough said he was talking to his mother, who is the first Black woman Superintendent of Schools in San Francisco, and she told him, “Lance, we fight among each other too much.”
“It is so sad,” Gough said.
When his mother asked if someone will drop out, Gough said, “No, because everybody has the right to run and everyone does have the right to run, but you don’t have the right to help dilute the Black vote. I am really nervous about this.”
When asked what the community should do, Gough said, “They should hold our leaders to a higher power. Ask them what about getting around one person, but everybody thinks they are smarter than everybody else.”
While no one knows how many Black voters there are because people don’t register by ethnicity, Gough said, “It’s hard to tell, but there’s got to be at least 40 percent” Black voters.
Because he said there are that many Blacks who vote, he added, “There is no way you can lose because that’s over 40 percent right there.”
When asked about Chuy Garcia being projected by some media as the lead mayoral candidate, Gough said Garcia once ran unsuccessfully against Mayor Rahm Emanuel in 2015, along with other candidates Willie Wilson, former Alderman Robert W. “Bob” Fioretti and activist William “Dock” Walls, III.
Garcia lost to Emanuel in an April 7 runoff with 43.8 percent of the vote, or 258,562 votes, to Emanuel’s 56.2 percent or 332,171 votes. A total of 590,733
people voted in the runoff, according to the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners.
Agreeing with Davis and Gough is Jakes, who also called for a consensus Black candidate. “It is important for us to get together in some large church and settle on a consensus candidate. It is very important to maintain the gains.
“When we won with Harold Washington, it was a great victory. It’s important for us to understand that we didn’t get here divided, but connected,” said Jakes.
“It is now important for us to look at a consensus candidate like we’ve done in the past and to settle upon one mayoral candidate.”
Jakes is calling on all Civil Rights organizations whose constituents are African American to hold a meeting and agree upon a Black mayoral candidate.
“I am a member of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition. I feel that Rev. Jesse Jackson provides great leadership, and I yield to the larger organizations, including the NAACP, for this summit to choose a consensus candidate,” Jakes said.
But, Starks said, “It’s too late to do a plebiscite now. With so many Blacks running for mayor, it is quite possible that we will lose that office forever because we are going to split the vote.”
Referring to the many mayoral candidates, Starks said, “You have Chuy Garcia who has much of a lock on the Hispanic vote.
You got Vallas who is going to appeal to a great number of white people, and Lori is hoping that she can get her same bloc together that she had in her first election, which was the North lakefront. I think that North lakefront group may be going to Vallas.
“It’s going to be rough,” admitted Starks, referring to the race to elect another Black mayor on February 28. “We don’t have a Black consensus candidate, and that’s a real serious problem.”
Looking at the other Black mayoral candidates, Starks said, “Brandon Johnson has a TV commercial; so he seems to be out there ahead of most of the Black candidates. I don’t know if he has the consensus of the Black community.”
Starks said Johnson’s supporters are the teachers who have endorsed him, those from the Cook County Board and the unions. “He needs to get known. That’s why he is running so many TV commercials.”
Turning a page in Black history, Starks referred to journalist Lutrelle “Lu” F. Palmer, II, and his wife, Jorja, who held a plebiscite for then-mayoral candidate Harold Washington in 1982.
Starks said, “We got a consensus candidate in that case and he won, but it’s too late for that now with the mayoral election scheduled for February 28.”
He admitted if this is done now, “you’ll end up antagonizing a lot of people. I agree we should have a consensus candidate, but I don’t know how you can get there.”
When contacted, Bishop Tavis Grant, Acting National Executive Director for the Rainbow PUSH Coalition, said, “Quite honestly, that train has perhaps left the station, with a number of campaigns entrenched in financing a ground and air campaign, only those who can sustain themselves financially and organizationally will make the cut. It’s a heavy lift for all nine to go the distance. I think the process of forums and debates, along with what the community discovers about who can really lead this city, [is what’s left]. That will determine the people’s choice.
When the mayoral gate opens at 7 a.m., Tuesday, February 28, it’s not a matter of rolling the dice to know who will win the coveted Fifth Floor race because it’s about the crowded field of Black candidates “eating at the same constituency pie,” said Gough.
“Polls don’t vote,” warned Jakes, urging people to cast their vote Thursday, January 26, the first day of early voting at 191 N. Clark and 69 W. Washington on the Sixth Floor.