Long road to ‘consensus’ black candidate
By Abdon M. Pallasch Political Reporterapallasch@suntimes.com January 1, 2011 8:24PM
Rep. Danny Davis
Updated: June 17, 2013 1:36PM
Rep. Danny Davis was completely gracious as he withdrew from the mayoral race on New Year’s Eve.
But it was a long, painful road he, State Sen. James Meeks, former U.S. Sen. Carol Moseley Braun and other leaders in Chicago’s African-American community traveled before settling on a single “consensus” candidate in the race.
“I finally made up my mind Thursday afternoon about 3 o’clock. I was sitting at my desk. I got a revelation. It just sort of came to me that this was the chart,” Davis told the Chicago Sun-Times on Saturday. Davis said Braun convinced him that with limited resources for black candidates, she could raise more money than he could to compete with front-runner Rahm Emanuel.
But it took many meetings for him to become convinced.
The Rev. Jesse Jackson had called Davis and Braun together for a meeting at his office Wednesday night. He asked them both how much of an organization each had built and how their fund-raising was going. He asked them to talk to each other — away from their supporters — for a half-hour. They did so, and the meeting ended at midnight.
Members of the media, who had been tipped off to their meeting, waited outside and asked if either would drop out. Neither said they would. Davis’ supporters leaned on him not to drop out — the West Side has never gotten a fair shake, they reminded him.
They reconvened at 8 a.m. Thursday in Braun’s business office and spoke for an hour. Jackson was present again. No commitments were made from either side to pull out.
But by the time they met again Friday morning, Davis seemed to be moving.
Meeks had pulled out the previous week after holding a meeting with Davis and Braun and emphasizing that only one of them should run. Meeks, like the other two, thought he was the best candidate. But it became clear in that meeting that none had any intention of pulling out.
Meeks even reached out to some of the lesser-known African-American candidates, William “Dock” Walls and Patricia Van Pelt Watkins, but they weren’t budging either. With his comments about minority contracts drawing fire, Meeks pulled the plug on his own candidacy and left town to celebrate his 31st wedding anniversary with his wife.
For four months after Mayor Daley announced his retirement, Chicago’s African-American political, religious and business leaders had held meeting after meeting to try to anoint a “consensus” candidate.
The main group of leaders chose Davis. A business group chose Braun and Meeks. But their efforts meant little if the other candidates remained in the race.
“In the end, the only people who could make this decision were me, Carol and Danny,” Meeks said Saturday. “We had to make this decision. Many people didn’t think it could be done. Now she has a better chance.”
When Meeks came back to town Friday morning, he called Davis and met him for breakfast at Pearl’s Place at 39th and Michigan.
“At the breakfast I could tell he was basically ready to make a decision,” Meeks said.
Braun ramped up the pressure on Davis on Friday, sending out a news release that Meeks’ heaviest-hitting business backers, Com Ed executives Frank Clark and John Hooker, were joining her campaign.
About 5 p.m., Meeks called Braun and told her to come to Davis’ office — he’d be pulling out to endorse her.
“He gave me all of 25 minutes to get to his office to talk about how we could come together to make the case for the people,” Braun quipped.