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Gov woos African-American base

Updated: September 18, 2014 6:39AM



Though no public events were listed on his Friday calendar, Gov. Pat Quinn had a 10 a.m. private meeting with a critical constituency.

The invitation read, “All African American elected officials are invited and welcomed by Governor Pat Quinn to attend a planning session to develop action steps for the fall election.”

How was the meeting?

“How did you know I was there?” replied state Rep. Monique Davis when I called.

More on our conversation in a second.

The gathering was heldat the Quinn (no relation) Chapel AME Church at 2401 S. Wabash. According to some who were there, about 100 people showed up, including committeemen and community activists. The elected officials numbered about 30. Among them were U.S. Rep. Robin Kelly, Secretary of State Jesse White, aldermen Will Burns, Pat Dowell and Howard Brookins Jr., and state lawmakers such as Sen. Emil Jones III and Rep. Monique Davis.

Now, you might assume that Quinn, a populist Democrat, would have a lock on the black community and therefore would be focused elsewhere. Like on trying to convert white suburban women and dyspeptic Downstaters.

But Rule Number One in politics is secure the base.

How secure is that base?

Well, in the election of 2010, Quinn won Chicago and, with it, the black vote. Even so, his statewide victory was by a margin of only 32,000 votes against conservative Bloomington businessman Bill Brady. In the 2014 primary, virtually unknown African-American candidate Tio Hardiman embarrassingly ate into Quinn’s victory statewide, signaling a warning no one missed. Not Quinn. Not opponent Bruce Rauner.

The road has been made rockier still by the fact that Quinn’s administration is under scrutiny by the feds for the creation back in 2010 of the Neighborhood Recovery Initiative that funded anti-violence efforts which, critics allege, was a get-out-the-vote slush fund. A Quinn spokeswoman has called that “ludicrous.”

And Quinn’s opponent, Bruce Rauner, just this week took new heat from Secretary of State Jesse White, who charged the Republican was trying to “buy” the black vote with grants and gifts. Something Rauner called “baloney.”

Rauner has picked up some powerful African-American support, notably from James Meeks, pastor of the 14,000-strong Salem Baptist Church on the city’s South Side.

“I would have supported (Kirk) Dillard,” Meeks told me by phone, “But I like Bruce. What I do not like is how the Democrats have treated the base.”

Which takes us back to Friday morning’s meeting between black leaders and the governor attended by, among others, Rep. Davis.

“I understand Rev. Meeks’ disappointments,” she told me. However, “I’m concerned about putting a Republican in as governor who would bolster other Republicans across the country who are fighting my president on everything.”

As a political consultant friend of mine always says, “People don’t go to the polls to say who they’re for. It’s to register — loudly — who they’re against.”

Unless, of course, voters have just given up voting.

That is what keeps both parties awake at night.

Email: cmarin@suntimes.com

Twitter: @CarolMarin



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