Carol Moseley Braun has finally emerged as the last black candidate standing in the interesting mayoral race in the city of Chicago. Before the recent announcement, Moseley Braun was fighting for air with two other candidates, Danny K. Davis and James Meeks. The decision to throw their support behind one candidate was announced after a four-hour meeting brokered by Rev. Jesse Jackson at the Rainbow Push headquarters in the South Side of Chicago.
I personally found the move surprising, given that Moseley Braun was not the leading black candidate in the first place. According to a recent Chicago Tribune/WGN poll, Davis was ahead of the other black candidates with 9 percent of the vote, while Moseley Braun actually brings up the rear with just 6 percent. Meeks had 7 percent of the vote, but withdrew from the race after making controversial comments about affirmative action (a no-no in politics, which is why I will never be elected for anything).
One factor that may have played a role in the group's decision to put all of their support behind Moseley-Braun is her fund-raising ability. In my email inbox yesterday, there was a press release stating that Moseley Braun was set to receive significant financial support from prominent African American business leaders. I imagine that the release was timed to argue that Moseley Braun is the one best-equipped to carry the banner for black Chicagoans. The case was compelling, given that Davis walked out the door just a couple of days later.
"We are making a financial commitment based upon Moseley Braun's exemplary leadership and her strong positions on public safety, education and jobs," Moseley Braun's Finance committee co-chair, Elzie Higginbottom said. "We know that she will be a mayor who builds coalitions and is sensitive to the needs of people and who is also dedicated to the economic viability and development of our great city."
Recent Obama Photos
President Barack Obama, with first lady Michelle Obama, laughs with a member of the military during Christmas dinner at Anderson Hall on Marine Corps Base Hawaii in Kaneohe, Hawaii, Saturday, Dec. 25, 2010. The first family is in Hawaii for the holidays.
AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster
There is no question about whether or not Moseley Braun is experienced enough to run the city of Chicago. At this point, the question is whether or not she can defeat front-runner Rahm Emanuel, former Chief of Staff to President Barack Obama. A meeting of the minds among black candidates is likely being applauded by African American voters in the city of Chicago, who constitute one-third of the population.
Another interesting dimension of the Chicago mayoral race are the racial sensitivities likely to be sparked as Rahm Emanuel uses the Clinton/Obama connections to outshine his African American opponents. President Bill Clinton is planning to come to Chicago to campaign for Emanuel, and Rep. Davis went as far as actually warning Clinton that coming to Chicago would jeopardize his relationship with the African American community. Yes, it would be odd for a man who accepted the title as "first black president" to come to Chicago and campaign against the candidate being supported by the majority of the African Americans in Chicago. Blackness has always been an arbitrary convenience for the Clintons, but Davis and Moseley Braun have had no choice but to be black all their lives.
Even worse would be for President Obama to step into the race. Any support for Emanuel would create an awkward scenario in which the President of the United States appears to be abandoning the best interests of African Americans to instead support one of his cronies from Washington. While it's not illegal for Obama to support Emanuel, the truth is that it would just seem a wee bit awkward.
In any case, it's great that Moseley Braun can stand on her own as a fund-raiser in this environment. Most elections are won by the person who can pull in the most cash. With fat cat Democrats siding against her, if she can rake in the most moolah, Moseley Braun stands a fighting chance.
Dr. Boyce Watkins is the founder of the Your Black World Coalition and a Scholarship in Action Resident of the Institute for Black Public Policy. To have Dr. Boyce commentary delivered to your email, please click here.