Preckwinkle sparks battle for the Black vote

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Crusader Staff Report

The race for the Black vote for the 2019 mayoral elections drew sharp competition this week as Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle is expected to announce her campaign to run on Thursday, becoming the eighth Black candidate who aims to replace incumbent Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

With a big name and profile, Preckwinkle appears to be a strong candidate, but with a grand total of 13 mayoral candidates, she will need the Black vote to win City Hall. Chuy Garcia, who pushed Emanuel to the city’s first ever mayoral runoff in 2014, is expected to enter the race again and grab the Hispanic vote.

On Friday, September 14, another big name figure, Bill Daley, the brother of former mayor Richard M. Daley, announced his campaign for mayor. On Tuesday, September 18, Gery Chico announced his bid for Chicago’s highest office.

While grabbing the Hispanic and white electorate may be a tough challenge for Preckwinkle, questions remain whether she can wrestle the Black vote from a heavy field of Black candidates.

Running unopposed in the General Election in November, Preckwinkle will automatically be elected to a third term as Cook County Board President. She crushed her opponent Bob Fioretti in the Democratic Primary. Many voted for Preckwinkle because she ran against a weak candidate who was less qualified and unfit for the job. Although Black, white, and Hispanic voters were not happy with her leadership and the soda tax debacle, they still supported Preckwinkle by default.

But questions remain whether Preckwinkle can run away with the Black vote this time. While she has achieved political success in Cook County politics, there is concern that the former alderman has forgotten about her core Black supporters who have supported her for years. Many are still angry about layoffs of many Cook County employees. And the soda tax was hard on mom and pop stores in the Black communities until it was repealed.

After District 1 Cook County Commissioner Richard Boykin publicly opposed her soda tax, Preckwinkle backed his opponent Brandon Johnson, a political rookie who won with a campaign largely funded by unions.

There are seven Black candidates in the race for mayor and three have bonds strong enough to win the Black vote or at least diminish Preckwinkle’s stronghold on the Black electorate and force her into a runoff with other opponents.

And there’s one place that will become the battleground for the Black vote: the Black church. It’s where two Black candidates have spent the most time campaigning since announcing their bids for Chicago mayor. They are Cook County Circuit Court Clerk Dorothy Brown and businessman Willie Wilson. Of these two, Brown may prove to be the toughest opponent.

Through hard times and criticism, Black voters have time and time again stood by Brown, electing her five times in her 18-year career.

The “unsinkable’ Brown has prov- en her critics wrong and silenced those who doubted her. When the Tribune and the Sun Times reported on her announcement to run for mayor, they also included with the story a federal investigation into allegations that Brown hired employees in exchange for thousands of dollars. Brown denied any wrongdoing; days after the stories ran, many Blacks packed the Chicago Hilton to celebrate her latest political endeavor. For Brown, it was bold, courageous and perhaps most importantly, defiant.

Last June at the annual women’s luncheon at Jesse Jackson’s PUSH convention in Chicago, thunderous applause erupted after a speaker acknowledged Brown’s presence in the room.

“The citizens of Chicago and Cook County have elected me five times,” Brown said. “They trust me. I am a proven leader. I realize that Chicago needs real change,” Brown said. “And I am the person to bring that change.”

Many can’t explain why Brown is politically invincible, but some say her struggle with the political establishment makes her relatable to Blacks in their struggle to overcome odds in their lives. Brown’s story is one of constant redemption.

There is also Wilson, a rags to riches businessman who has defied the establishment in the past few months in similar ways as Brown. He was investigated but later cleared of accusations of campaign violations, after giving thousands of dollars at Black churches to struggling homeowners who could not afford to pay their property taxes. When the criticism intensified, Wilson said “I’m tired of white people telling me what to do with my own money.”

Another strong Black candidate is former Police Board President Lori Lightfoot. The political climate well suits her candidacy as distrust in the political establishment, particular the Chicago Police Department, lingers.

As a critic of Emanuel and the CPD, Lightfoot’s biggest quality is trust. It’s something the Black community has been looking for in its leaders for a long time.

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