By Deanna Bellandi
Former U.S. Sen. Carol Moseley Braun kicked off her campaign for Chicago mayor Saturday by reintroducing herself to voters, some of whom weren’t even born when she last won election in 1992.
Braun, who runs an organic food company, was the latest candidate to formally enter the race to replace retiring Mayor Richard Daley, who has presided over the city for more than 20 years but announced in September that he wouldn’t seek a seventh term.
The former senator joins a field of at least six major contenders that includes former White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel.
“While the city has many challenges: creating jobs, balancing our budget, fixing our schools, protecting our seniors and our children and making our government more accountable to the people, I stand before you today in the fervent belief that there is no city in this country better positioned for progress and opportunity for all its citizens than Chicago,” Braun told more than 100 supporters at an outdoor rally on Chicago’s lakefront with the skyline as her backdrop.
The 63-year-old Braun made history when she was elected in 1992 as the first black woman in the U.S. Senate. She lost a re-election bid in 1998 and was later named ambassador to New Zealand. Braun also ran unsuccessfully for the Democratic nomination for president in 2004.
She is hoping voters will be attracted to her breadth of government experience. Before winning the 1992 Senate race for the seat President Barack Obama later went on to hold, Braun served as an Illinois state lawmaker and Cook County government official.
In the mayor’s race, Braun will likely have to address some past miscues that raised questions about her judgment, including a highly criticized visit with a brutal Nigerian dictator when she was a senator and never-proven accusations about misused campaign money.
Braun is counting on her business experience running a small company that specializes in coffee, tea and spices to be a plus with voters. She said she’s had to work hard to weather the recession that battered businesses, both big and small.
In her attempt at a political comeback, Braun has the backing of U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush, who said he was friends with Emanuel and the other two major black candidates in the race, state Sen. James Meeks and U.S. Rep. Danny Davis. In fact, Rush said he “loved” Davis.
“But you know what? This election is not about friendship, it’s about leadership,” Rush bellowed into a microphone, revving up Braun’s supporters.
A group of black leaders tried to prevent splitting black votes in the Feb. 22 mayor’s race by picking Davis as their preferred candidate over other finalists, including Meeks and Braun.
Braun singled out Emanuel during her announcement speech, taking him to task over a TV commercial that says people must decide whether Chicago will become a “second-tier” city. Braun said Chicago can’t just be great for people who live in the “right neighborhoods.”
“Let me tell you something about us: Chicago will always be a great city because its people will tolerate nothing less,” she said.
Other major declared candidates in the mayor’s race are Chicago City Clerk Miguel del Valle and former Chicago school board president Gery Chico.