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Braun run will say a lot about city’s blacks

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Staff mug of Mary Mitchell. (Photo by Richard A. Chapman/Sun-Times)


If Carol Moseley Braun doesn’t end up with double digits or a runoff spot in the mayoral race, the loss will confirm something most African Americans in Chicago already know.

African-American leadership in this city is impotent.

A black consensus candidate should have had the support of the influential black movers and shakers in the religious, business, civic, activist, and political arena — not because of black unity, but because of self-interest.

The lackluster support of a candidate that was pushed forward by a coalition of African Americans purporting to represent the black community is shameful because blacks have lost a lot of ground since the city’s first black mayor, Harold Washington, died in office.

That’s one reason why Braun has not been able to raise money from the black business community.

“Thirty years ago when Harold Washington was getting ready to run, you had a much more vibrant business community,” said John Rogers Jr., chairman of Ariel Capital Investments, and one of the fund-raisers for Braun’s campaign.

“And now there is not a large pool when you look at the decline of minority businesses and lack of presence in professional services,” he said.

Although representatives of the black business community agreed to raise $3 million for Braun, she hasn’t seen the money.

Rogers pointed out that 30 years ago, 12 of the top 100 black businesses were located in Chicago. Today the city only has three of the top 100, according to “Black Enterprise” magazine.

“The interesting thing about the top companies in 1980, they all had over 500 employees. We don’t have one black company in Chicago that has 500 employees,” Rogers said.

Also, back then black business leaders who worked for majority corporations were “financially sound” and could be significantly engaged in the black community. There are a lot fewer black corporate executives today.

And financial reforms under former Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s administration — banning businesses and their employees from contributing to political campaigns if the company does business with McCormick Place — additionally impacted the campaign.

“That has been a real extra bugaboo for Carol,” Rogers said. “The African-American pool of black business [executives] is so small, some who were willing to give got caught up in the McPier [reform].

What that means is that 30 years after Harold Washington, blacks are less equipped to elect a black mayor, despite the higher number of blacks in elected office.

To make matters worse, last week, Braun got a humiliating come-uppance when N’Digo publisher Hermene Hartman endorsed Emanuel. Hartman didn’t just endorse Emanuel, she trashed Braun’s campaign.

“Braun has not presented a platform and has not raised money,” Hartman wrote. “Braun is not the one to unite this city and solve its problems. She has not employed winning or unifying strategies as she once did.”

This is a stunner, because up until the endorsement, Hartman appeared to be in Braun’s camp. N’Digo’s endorsement was a serious blow to Braun’s campaign because it bolsters the notion that Emanuel is unstoppable, and therefore anyone needing access to City Hall best get on board.

The truth is, despite having the backing of two presidents and millions in his war chest, Emanuel needs a lot of black votes to avoid a run-off.

Hispanic voters are clear. In the Latino community, Emanuel is still being greeted by protesters who are upset over his past position on immigration reform.

But in the black community, Braun is being criticized for her campaign style.

“It’s just sad to me. There is an assumption that Rahm will give [black supporters] access,” said Renee Ferguson, Braun’s press secretary. “People have to get out and vote for themselves, This is not about Carol. This is not about her hair or about her clothes. We are having a hard time voting for ourselves.”

Ironically, in 1995, when the late Joseph Gardner ran against Daley, then Sen. Braun made a pro-Daley commercial while 100 black ministers — including Gardner’s own pastor — lined up behind Daley’s re-election bid.

Although Daley isn’t running, the formula for beating a black candidate hasn’t changed. Co-opting black leadership is still the name of the game.

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