Now that a Coalition of Black Leaders has picked a consensus candidate to run for mayor in the February 22 Mayoral Election, what’s next?

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By Juanita Bratcher


A coalition of Black leaders consisting of politicians, religious and community leaders chose U.S. Rep. Danny Davis as the consensus candidate to run for mayor in the February 22, 2011 mayoral election.

But while the coalition has unanimously selected Davis as the consensus candidate, there’s doubt that some of the other candidates who announced they will run for mayor will drop out of the race.

Illinois State Senator Rickey Hendon, assistant majority leader, has already dropped out of the race, inasmuch as the coalition has selected a consensus candidate, he said. As of yet, no other candidate has taken Hendon’s lead.

Carol Moseley Braun, former U.S. Senator and Ambassador to New Zealand, was opening up a campaign office this weekend when the coalition announced Davis as their choice. However, prior to that announcement, the coalition had said it was a choice between Braun and State Senator James Meek.

Choosing a consensus Black candidate to run in Chicago’s February 22, 2010 mayoral election is the same strategy that was used back in 1983 when a coalition of grassroots organizations – African American activists – headed by late Journalist Lu Palmer, held a plebiscite at Bethel AME Church on the South Side of Chicago and chose Harold Washington as their consensus candidate.

But even after choosing Washington by a unanimous decision, it wasn’t easy convincing the then Congressman of the 1st Congressional District to run for the post. Washington had a reputation for staying in the background pushing others to run for political office.

However, Washington reluctantly threw his hat into the mayoral ring, and only after supporters had fulfilled an ultimatum from him to add 50,000 new Black voters to the voter registration roll (they doubled that amount and more), and put in place adequate campaign funding to launch such an endeavor, as noted in the book, “Harold: The Making of a Big City Mayor”, by Juanita Bratcher.

Bratcher, then an investigative reporter for the Chicago Defender, was assigned to the campaign trail of Harold Washington a day after arriving back in the United States after a 10-day assignment in Israel, along with five other American Journalists.

The initial list of candidates being considered for the consensus candidate in1983 consisted of 21 names – Carol Moseley Braun, Rev. Milton Brunson, Roland Burris, Rev. Johnnie Coleman, Dr. Manford Byrd, Margaret Burroughs, Lenora Cartwright, Alderman Danny Davis, Clifford Kelley, Alderman Anna Langford, Ald. Marian Humes, Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, Publisher John Johnson, Journalist Lu Palmer, Former State’s Attorney Cecil Partee, A.A. Sammy Rayner, Renault Robinson, U.S. Rep. Gus Savage, Atty. Thomas Todd, Dr. Bobby Wright, and U.S. Rep. Harold Washington.

Of the 21 persons considered in 1983, nine are now deceased, and three of them are now in the running for mayor again – U.S. Rep. Danny Davis, Carol Moseley Braun and Roland Burris.    

Washington had run for mayor in 1977. When the results came in Washington had garnered 11 percent of the vote total – 77,000 votes. But in 1983, in a race with the sitting Mayor Jane Byrne and State’s Attorney Richard M. Daley (now the mayor of Chicago), Washington won the post. He won again when he ran for re-election in 1987, but died in office before the term was up. Eugene Sawyer was elected Interim Mayor by the City Council but lost in his bid for re-election to the post.

At the 2010 public forum to select a consensus candidate, also held at Bethel AME Church, there were eleven candidates vying for mayor that spoke at the forum, including Braun, Burris, Meek, Bill Walls, Davis, Hendon and several others.

I attended the forum. There were two new comers running for mayor at the forum for a consensus candidate – Christopher Cooper, a civil rights attorney, and Timothy King, an educator – that made excellent presentations.

There’s no question, U.S. Rep. Danny Davis is an excellent candidate for mayor. And certainly, some of those who didn’t make the cut have a good track record of public service. But the question remains, what happens next? Will they accept the decision of the coalition and step aside? Or will they still run albeit and ignore the decision made by the coalition?

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