Rahm Emanuel Gets Out the Black Vote in Chicago

Former Obama chief of staff Rahm Emanuel won't have any problems winning election as the next mayor of Chicago in May.

Chicago’s mayoral race is in many ways going as anticipated. Obama's former chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, has a huge lead over the rest of the pack, and it looks as if he’ll have no problem sliding into the void Richard M. Daley is leaving in the mayor’s office in May. The most recent Chicago Tribune poll, in fact, has Emanuel way up at 49 percent, compared to 19 for Gery Chico and 10 for Carol Moseley Braun. In an ABC-7 poll, Emanuel is up even more, with 54 percent of the vote to Chico’s 14 and Moseley Braun’s 6.

The story isn’t really who’s going to win the Feb. 22 election anymore—Emanuel is. The story is now how he’s going to win: with a huge percentage of the black vote.

In Chicago, the African-American vote is an outright necessity when it comes to winning elections. And African-American voters often throw their support behind African-American candidates. But not this year. Carol Moseley Braun is, of course, the only Black candidate among the top three Democrats in Chicago’s mayoral primary, and she’s getting shellacked by Emanuel and Chico, even among black constituents. As of yesterday, Emanuel was favored by 48 percent of Chicago’s black voters.

To be sure, some of this failure with black voters is due to Moseley Braun’s terrible campaign. Though she’s still the only Black woman ever to be elected to the U.S. Senate, Moseley Braun has made several horrible missteps since announcing her mayoral candidacy in November, including calling one of her opponents a “crack addict” and comparing Emanuel, who is Jewish, to Hitler. Still, there’s something to be said for Emanuel’s attraction to Black voters, an attraction Steve Chapman summarizes well in a story about race in the race: "Emanuel has benefited greatly from his association with [Bill Clinton], the man known as 'the first black president'... Working for Barack Obama didn't hurt, either. Emanuel might evoke indifference among blacks. He could not possibly evoke fear."

Only time will tell if Emanuel repays black constituents with legislation that improves their lives. If past is prologue, however, his work under Obama has prepared him to approach black issues with confidence and integrity. Shame the same couldn’t be said of the way Moseley Braun approached her entire campaign.

Image: Scott Olsen / Getty Images

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