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Supporters not fazed by Braun money woes

Carol Moseley Braun is asked about her income tax returns during press conference she held about street violence S. Marshfield

Carol Moseley Braun is asked about her income tax returns during a press conference she held about street violence at S. Marshfield Avenue and 69th Street Wednesday in Chicago. | JOHN J. KIM ~ SUN-TIMES

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Updated: May 17, 2011 2:55PM

How do you convince voters you’re the right person to manage a city on the brink of financial collapse when your personal finances are in shambles?

How can you demonstrate you’re willing to make spending cuts when you reported a negative income of $225,908 in 2008, while living in a $1.7 million home that now has four mortgages to support your struggling small business?

Those are the questions facing Carol Moseley Braun and her supporters now that she has changed her mind and released her 2008 and 2009 federal income tax returns.

State Sen. James Meeks (D-Chicago), who dropped out of the mayor’s race and threw his support to Braun, argued that the former U.S. Senator’s personal finances should not be held against her.

Meeks noted that Mayor Daley, who “put the ship of state in such terrible shape,” would likely have been re-elected had he chosen to seek a seventh term and that former Gov. Rod Blagojevich got re-elected after helping run the state into the ground.

“Bill Brady was the [gubernatorial] nominee of his [Republican] party, and he showed a loss to the point where he didn’t have any income. Are we saying that men can show a loss on their business and women can’t?” Meeks said. “Sen. Braun’s personal finances should not reflect on her ability to run a city.’’

The Rev. Jesse Jackson, who brokered the talks that helped Braun emerge as the consensus black candidate, agreed that Braun can overcome the controversy.

“All it shows is that she is poor. She doesn’t have any money — like so many other people,” he said.

An African-American businessman in Braun’s camp argued that the contrast with millionaire mayoral challengers Rahm Emanuel and Gery Chico can only help Braun in the long run. “She’ll be able to relate to people who have lost their homes,” the businessman said.

However, a black elected official backing Braun, who asked to remain anonymous, disagreed, noting that Chicago’s $1 billion-a-year structural deficit is the No. 1 issue facing the next mayor.

“You could say she’s the perfect person because we’re living over our head, too. But I don’t think that’s the way most people will look at it,” the official said.

“Carol clearly has the most distinguished record of the candidates we were looking at, but there was always an asterisk. It was, ‘Carol, who got in trouble going to Nigeria.’ Those were judgment questions hanging over her. The financial stuff just adds to that cloud.”

Meeks acknowledged that Braun stumbled by initially refusing to match the pre-election tax disclosures made by her three major opponents, saying, “I don’t want to.”

But he also understands how it happened. Had he remained in the race, Meeks said he also planned to delay the release of his federal income tax returns until after the Feb. 22 election.

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