By Karen Hawkins
CHICAGO –A coalition of Black leaders has selected U.S. Rep. Danny Davis as its preferred candidate for mayor of Chicago, but there are no guarantees that the choice will deliver the unity, or the votes, that the group was created to ensure.
Davis, who’s been in Congress since 1997, was selected late Friday over three finalists after a two-month process. But the candidates who weren’t selected, including state Sen. James Meeks and former U.S. Sen. Carol Moseley Braun, have signaled they’ll continue their plans to run for mayor, even without coalition support.
The coalition of Black elected officials, business owners and activists has been meeting since Chicago Mayor Richard Daley announced in September that he wouldn’t seek re-election.
Davis said he’s pleased and “feels a tremendous sense of responsibility … that they would invest that much political capital in me” to represent the community.
Black leaders have said the purpose of the coalition was to unify the city’s Black community behind a “consensus candidate” to avoid splitting the black vote.
“The best person for the job has always been the goal of the coalition,” said group spokeswoman Tracey Alston on Saturday.
Alston said Davis was chosen because of his experience in all levels of government, including Congress, the Cook County Board and Chicago’s City Council, where he served 11 years as an alderman.
Davis is best positioned “to help maintain the foundation that Mayor Daley has set to make Chicago a global city,” Alston said.
Davis’ sprawling congressional district covers an economically and racially diverse swath of Chicago and the western suburbs. He won re-election to his congressional seat Tuesday with about 80 percent of the vote.
Meanwhile, Braun, who hasn’t officially announced her candidacy, opened a campaign office Saturday on the city’s South Side. Campaign spokeswoman Renee Ferguson said Braun “appreciated the (coalition) process and that on election day the people will decide.”
“She is trying to build a coalition of everyone,” Ferguson said.
Braun, the country’s first black female senator, served in the Senate from 1993 to 1999 and was U.S. ambassador to New Zealand for two years. Meeks has been a state senator since 2003 and is pastor of Salem Baptist, a megachurch on the city’s South Side.
Meeks’ spokesman Bryan Zises was dismissive of the coalition process but echoed Braun’s intention to build support beyond the black community.
“It seems as though the coalition reverses course weekly, so I like our chances that Sen. Meeks will be the consensus candidate next week,” Zises said in a statement. “They are just one coalition in a very large city, and Sen. Meeks intends to be mayor for all of Chicago, not just a segment.”
Both Meeks and Braun have been collecting signatures on nominating petitions, which are due from Nov. 15-22, and there’s no indication that their supporters will abandon them for Davis because the coalition has selected him.
Others who have announced their candidacy or are considering running for Chicago mayor are City Clerk Miguel Del Valle, former Chicago school board president Gery Chico and former White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel.