One might think that New York City is a strange place to report on a Chicago Congressional election. But these days, money decides elections, not voters. And in Chicago’s south side 2nd District special election, the New York Mayor has inserted himself into the campaign and all but bought himself an Illinois Congressional seat. The only problem is, Blago is in prison and Jesse Jr. resigned, for fundamentally the same thing.
Money and racism
In the special election to replace disgraced former Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr., two items are rising to the top of the list of prime issues for this majority-black district that stretches from Chicago’s south side into the south suburbs, and neither of them belong there, but both always are – money and racism.
Chicagoans were shocked this weekend by two news items concerning the IL CD 2 special election. The first was that 3rd place Toi Hutchinson had dropped out of the race and endorsed 2nd place Robin Kelly, vaulting Kelly into the lead in an effort to stop former Congresswoman Debbie Halvorson. The second revelation was that New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and his special interest group have poured over one million dollars into the race, backing fellow New Yorker Robin Kelly.
It’s no secret that certain secret, mysterious, almost invisible forces have been influencing the dozens of Democratic candidates to replace fellow Dem Jesse Jackson Jr. Some candidates have been genuinely intimidated, and have been extremely vocal and accusatory about it. Frontrunner Debbie Halvorson came right out and said, “I don’t know how they got Toi out. They’ve got to come clean. Nine days left? Why would you get out?”
Regardless of the reasons, one candidate after another in the crowded field has dropped out and thrown their support behind Bloomberg’s candidate Robin Kelly. One critic of heavy-handed tactics to, “clear the field” as he puts it, is the only candidate from Chicago – Alderman Anthony Beale. Beale’s campaign points to the $1.4 million that Mayor Bloomberg’s Independence USA SuperPAC has spent on Kelly’s behalf.
“By now, Debbie should be destroyed,” Beale spokeswoman Delmarie Cobb was quoted as saying by the Chicago Sun Times yesterday of the Kelly-Bloomberg attack ads against the former incumbent Halvorson, “We know for a fact that the needle isn’t moving. Robin’s numbers aren’t increasing and Debbie’s are going down very slowly.” If the Beale campaign’s internal poll numbers are correct, it would be quite a disappointment for the New York-backed Robin Kelly. Even with Bloomberg’s $1.4 million aside, Kelly has outraised Halvorson $400,000 to $30,000.
The money has gone mostly toward a nonstop parade of TV commercials denouncing Debbie Halvorson as a pro-NRA Democrat, out of touch with current Chicago sentiment on firearms. Halvorson has defended her position on 2nd Amendment rights by saying she has always taken, “a common sense approach” to our nation’s gun laws. “I haven’t asked for their support,” Halvorson said of the NRA, “I’m not being supported by them. I did not fill out a questionnaire. No support, no endorsement, no nothing. You will see by the end of the day when I win, we will have been outspent 30 to 1.”
Nobody likes a racist. But that’s a lesson that much of Chicago refuses to learn. Instead of seeking out the best candidate for a particular office and supporting him or her, many black elected officials, black religious leaders and even some black media personalities, continue to hold black-only confabs where they frantically attempt to unite behind one black candidate. While integrity, honesty and competence are thrown to the side, a candidate’s blackness and ability to win reign supreme as the most important factors.
The race to replace Jesse Jackson Jr. is no different. In a field of 17 candidates, almost all black, the white Halvorson immediately leapt to the lead in early polling. When fellow Democrats attempted to map both Halvorson and Jackson out of their own districts after the 2010 census, the 2nd Congressional District looped in a number of south suburbs, bringing the district’s total black population to just 55%.
Local neighborhood political analyst Russ Stewart may have summed it up best when he wrote earlier in the campaign, “With six credible black candidates fragmenting the 30,000-plus black base, and with another 10 minor candidates drawing 100 to 500 votes apiece, it’s hard to envision a Halvorson loss.” Stewart wasn’t the only one to notice the writing on the wall. Community leaders and even most of the black candidates have been publicly calling on the Democratic Party and its voters to shun Debbie Halvorson, unite behind one black candidate and keep the Congressional seat black.
Announcing her endorsement of Kelly on Sunday, Toi Hutchinson’s statement read, ‘Robin is a friend and has captured momentum in pulling our community together. I am simply unwilling to risk playing a role going forward that could result in dividing our community at a time when we need unity more than ever.” Reporting on the race, the New York Times came right out and said racism was a main factor in the election.
Quoting one of the many black religious leaders in the District working frantically behind the scenes to insure a white woman isn’t elected, the Times spoke to Pastor Carl L. White Jr. of Victory Christian Assembly in Chicago’s south suburbs. “We want it to stay an African American seat” he said as he explained that a number of black ministers have been meeting in an attempt to unite behind one black candidate.
Beware of the backfire
It’s no secret that Chicagoans don’t really like being thought of as the ‘second city’. And to think that powerful New York politicians are using their ill-gotten Wall Street gains to buy a Chicago Congressional seat might just be too much for some voters to swallow. With Bloomberg’s millions and a slew of endorsements from black officials and religious leaders, the leading black candidate Robin Kelly has barely been able to pass the former frontrunner Halvorson in the polls.
And with the entire black community ganging up on one lonely white woman whose only crime was representing her black constituents admirably, white south side and south suburban voters may have a surprise for their black fellow Democrats. And that surprise is, racism isn’t a successful campaign strategy.
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