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My people, my people, why can't we get it together?

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Mary Mitchell

Everybody loves Danny. So why did it take weeks for a coalition of elected officials, pols, community activists and clergy to select Danny Davis, a former alderman and longtime U.S. congressman, as its consensus candidate-

The fact that it took so long to reach this decision makes suspect a process that was supposed to launch a unified bid to put an African American back in the mayor's seat.

Prior to boosting Davis, the group had narrowed its support to former U.S. Sen. Carol Moseley Braun and Larry Rogers Jr., a commissioner on the Cook County Board of Review.

Another coalition representing black business leaders endorsed Braun and state Sen. James T. Meeks after a series of discussions.

That group is composed of blacks who are capable of raising large sums of corporate and private money.

Indeed, John Rogers, head of Ariel Investments LLC, is a Braun supporter and was recently identified as part of Braun's campaign team.

Interestingly enough, Davis didn't make the business group's list.

So many lists, so little time

Davis is no lightweight. He has represented the 7th Congressional District since 1996 and sits on the powerful Ways and Means Committee.

Though his name often surfaces in times of trouble -- like when local Democrats were frantic to give Todd Stroger the boot -- ultimately, Davis ends up bowing out for the sake of black unity.

"He's in it to stay," said state Sen. Ricky Hendon, who flirted with a mayoral run himself but recently backed out.

Renee Fergusen, spokeswoman for the Braun campaign, said the coalition -- let's call them the grassroots guys -- "pulled" its endorsement even though Braun's polling numbers were much higher than other blacks gearing up to enter the race.

According to Hendon, Braun came under fierce criticism from the group when she hired Victor Reyes as a senior strategist and Mike Noonan as a field director.

Activists objected to Reyes and Noonan because of their close ties to Mayor Daley and the Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan.

"It became an anybody-but-Carol situation," Fergusen said. "It felt very anti-woman to me, and that was heartbreaking. Carol has fought for all the people in that room."

Although largely unspoken -- for now -- race will be a central part of the mayoral election.

That truth is reflected in the subtle and not-so-subtle support Rahm Emanuel is getting from some powerful white aldermen.

These men didn't have to call a meeting. They lined up behind the only prominent white man in the race.

Hendon, who flitted between the various groups that purported to represent segments of the black community, argued that Braun made a "political" misstep when she hired a former Daley top aide to run her campaign.

Reyes was one of the founders of the Hispanic Democratic Organization. His name was linked to City Hall's hiring scandal.

"I think the real deal is people felt Danny was representative of the grass-roots community," Hendon said.

"It was a direct affront for Carol to hire these men because they were too close to Daley and to Madigan," he said.

These are old scars from old battles that have nothing to do with the race at hand.

Quiet as it's kept, some of the same people who fought against Harold Washington tooth and nail are now claiming not to have a racist bone in their bodies.

Excuses, excuses

You can look far and wide, and it would be difficult to find a successful black politician or preacher or businessman who doesn't have close ties to the city's mayor.

Dumping Braun because of the people she has hired trivialized an effort that was supposed to set the tone for this historic race.

Some in the black community thought picking a consensus candidate would jump-start a march on City Hall.

It did not.

What the botched effort did do, however, was expose the kind of self-centered leadership that has kept black people bound.