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Davis out, endorses Braun: ‘In unity, there is strength’

Danny Davis flanked by Rev. James Meeks Carol Moseley Braun announces his exit from mayor’s race Friday. | Dom Najolia~Sun-Times

Danny Davis, flanked by Rev. James Meeks and Carol Moseley Braun, announces his exit from the mayor’s race Friday. | Dom Najolia~Sun-Times

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Updated: January 3, 2011 3:06PM

A dramatic 2010 in Chicago politics ended with one last flourish Friday night as U.S. Rep. Danny Davis dropped out of the race to succeed Mayor Daley and threw his support behind Carol Moseley Braun.

“In unity there is strength. In strength there is success,” Davis said at his downtown campaign office, flanked by Braun and state Sen. James Meeks, two of his former opponents in the Feb. 22 election.

“I just want to unify behind the best candidate. Everyone I know thinks Carol is the best candidate.”

Braun and Davis had met repeatedly behind closed doors in recent days amid pressure to emerge with a single, consensus black candidate. The decisive meeting came earlier Friday, after Meeks returned to town.

Davis’ departure clears the way for Braun to run as the only major African American candidate in a crowded field that also includes former presidential chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, former School Board President Gery Chico and City Clerk Miguel del Valle.

“I am totally dropping out of the race,” an upbeat Davis said, his famous deep voice booming. “I am supporting Carol Moseley Braun with every ounce of fervor that I have. I am even going to give her some money.

“I’m going to try to get every person who thought that they might support Danny Davis to switch their support to Carol Moseley Braun. I will start tonight.”

Davis called Braun “an outstanding woman” and introduced her as “the next mayor.”

A smiling Braun hugged both Davis and Meeks before saying their combined goal is to “reinvigorate our city.”

“We will create a city that works for all people in every neighborhood,” Braun said.

Davis’ press conference was kicked off by Meeks, who dropped out of the race last week.

“We’re here to stress unity,” Meeks said. “Unity is something our community desperately needs.”

Braun had been pressing her fund-raising advantage with Davis, releasing on Friday a list of black business leaders who have pledged to support her, a sign that she would be better able to compete financially with Emanuel.

Emanuel, who is vacationing in Thailand, released a statement saying: “Congressman Davis’ work on behalf of the people of Chicago goes back many years, and it certainly won’t stop today — his views will be needed in the dialogue about the city’s future. With all of the challenges we face, we must come together to work on behalf of all Chicagoans and address the needs of every neighborhood.”

 Del Valle said he has “always had the utmost respect for Danny.”

“He’s been a warrior for the West Side for years. I wish him well. Voters in this race are going to look beyond race and ethnicity and decide who is best to lead this city.”

Chico, in his post-announcement statement, came out swinging.

“Regardless of who gets in or out of this race, I am the only candidate with a Chicago resume that is built for mayor. 

“My two major opponents are Washington D.C. politicians. I served as chief-of-staff to the mayor in Chicago. I served as president of Chicago Public Schools in Chicago. I served as president of the Chicago Park District in Chicago.  I served as chairman of the City Colleges in Chicago. 

“I succeeded in every public service position I held because I built coalitions across ethnic and racial lines. That will be the type of leadership I bring to this campaign and to the mayor’s office. I have the best story to tell and the resources to tell it.” 

Davis’ announcement follows a nearly four-hour meeting Wednesday night at the Rev. Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow PUSH headquarters. Despite efforts that night to settle on a consensus candidate, both Davis and Braun insisted they were staying in the race. Davis had entered the meeting saying he was best candidate.

Davis had won the top coveted top spot on the ballot, and collected the endorsements of 15 African-American aldermen.

“It would be ludicrous for me to talk about any kind of thing other than trying to win the election,” Davis said on Dec. 22, the day he met with Meeks and Braun in an earlier effort to find a consensus candidate.

“You never say never to anything at all,” Davis also said that day. “But I do know I’m optimistic there is a unified approach to the campaign and we are going to be able to experience victory.”

Davis ran for mayor in 1991, but was soundly beaten in the mayoral primary by Daley, whose surprise announcement in September that he would not seek re-election launched the scramble to send a new mayor to City Hall’s Fifth Floor for the first time since 1989.

Davis’ departure doesn’t knock him out of politics. He was overwhelmingly re-elected to his eighth congressional term representing the West Side in November.

He plans to continue representing what he called “the greatest congressional district in the whole country.

“That’s pretty cool.”

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