CHICAGO | The plan was simple: The Rev. Jesse Jackson and Chicago’s other black leaders would choose one black candidate to run for mayor, invoke the name of the city’s respected first black mayor and watch its largest racial group flock to the polls to vote for the anointed candidate.
But as Tuesday’s election showed, things aren’t so simple in Chicago anymore. While much of the city remains as geographically segregated as it was in 1983, when black and Hispanic voters helped Harold Washington to a historic victory in the mayoral race, voters last week rejected the “consensus” black candidate and two Hispanic candidates in favor of a white man, former White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel.
The lessons of the election are still emerging, but voters, aldermen and residents say one thing is clear: Race might still play a role in Chicago politics, but people don’t vote along racial and ethnic lines like they once did.
“It’s pretty naive and frankly a little insulting that they think our intelligence is so low that they say the name ‘Harold Washington‘ and people will vote for you,” said Patricia Mosley, a 53-year-old black resident who voted for Mr. Emanuel, who is Jewish.
The former congressman collected two and often three times more votes than the consensus candidate, former U.S. Sen. Carol Moseley Braun, did in every predominantly black ward. He also had strong support in predominantly Hispanic wards, occasionally outpolling Chicago schools President Gery Chico, who is part Mexican, and City Clerk Miguel del Valle, who is Puerto Rican.
In all, Mr. Emanuel won 40 of 50 wards in Chicago, where blacks, whites and Hispanics each make up roughly a third of the population. He received 55 percent of the vote. Mr. Chico was second with 24 percent.
“I don’t think we’re post-racial yet, but we’re definitely past racial- and ethnic-based voting,” said Laura Washington, a Chicago Sun-Times columnist and TV political analyst.
Mrs. Braun didn’t help her cause - many believe she ran a terrible campaign that alienated big chunks of voters, including blacks. When other candidates released their tax returns, she refused. When she relented, the documents showed her tea-and-coffee company was struggling, raising questions about her ability to run a city already in deep financial trouble, said Alan Gitelson, a Loyola University political scientist.
During a candidate forum in a church, Mrs. Braun said one of her opponents, Patricia Van Pelt-Watkins also a black woman was “strung out on crack.” That comment and others offended many in the black community, and Mrs. Braun’s poll numbers dropped.
Kwame Raoul, a Chicago Democrat who holds Mr. Obama’s old seat in the Illinois Senate, said Mrs. Braun should have sought support from a wider swath of the black community, not just the older generation of black leaders.
“There’s a reluctance to pass the baton,” said the 46-year-old. “I’ve been playing the role of being a part of a new generation for so long that I think I’m slipping out of it.”
'Your papers, please' must never be heard in America
Independent voices from the TWT Communities
We hear about the politics, now lets visit with the people of the square
Life advice – from one friend to another!
Reviews, insights and commentary from an eclectic observer.
Right-brain investing in a left-brain world. You can do it. I can help.
Benghazi: The anatomy of a scandal
Vietnam Memorial adds four names
Cinco de Mayo on the Mall