In the wake of Cook County Board Chairman Toni Preckwinkle’s hasty exit as a possible mayoral contender, Sneed is told there is a move to fill the void with two male contenders in the black community: State Sen. Kwame Raoul and former Illinois Senate President Emil Jones Jr.

Sneed is told that top African-American business and civic leaders are scheduling a meeting in August with Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis, who has formed an exploratory committee, but a top source tells Sneed that Raoul should be regarded as a “bona fide contender.”

“There are a lot of bad feelings in the black community that Gov. Pat Quinn passed up Kwame as lieutenant governor, and that could hurt Quinn in the election,” said a top Sneed source familiar with the process of selecting a black consensus mayoral candidate.

“Trust me, Kwame Raoul, who chaired the pension reform committee, is the one to keep your eye on,” the source said. On Wednesday, the Sun-Times reported that Raoul had taken himself out of the running.

“We need a person who understands finance and the ins and outs of government, and Karen Lewis could be a disaster in that category,” the source added.

Sneed also hears a movement to draft former Illinois political powerhouse Emil Jones Jr., into the high-stakes race against Mayor Rahm Emanuel is in the works.

“Our intent is to tamp down support for CTU President Karen Lewis for mayor because there is no way she can bring the black community together on the schools issue to develop a black consensus,” said a major supporter of Jones supporter who asked not to be identified — but is well-known in the political structure of the African-American community.

“We need someone who can win,” the source said. “Emil was prominently mentioned in the mayoral election. He just needs to be cajoled and convinced.”

Jones, 78, is chairman of the Illinois Sports Facilities Authority. He is a viable commodity because he knows the political ropes — but his age is a major factor.

As president of the Illinois Senate, Jones once lent so much critical support to little-known state Sen. Barack Obama’s bid to be a U.S. senator — he was called Obama’s political godfather.

It was reported that Obama once described Jones as “a powerful advocate for those who need a voice” and someone with “passion for public service.”

“Emil Jones knows the give and take of politics; he’s an old pro who knows how to work across the aisle; he knows the ropes and could galvanize the black community like no one else,” the source said.

◆ Side note: Jones has been credited with helping Obama master the intricacies of the Legislature. He even had the theme from “The Godfather” as his cellphone ringtone.

A powerhouse in the black community who, in the past, was involved with fielding black consensus mayoral candidates  told Sneed:

“No name has surfaced to run against Mayor Emanuel since [Cook County Board President] Toni Preckwinkle opted not to run,” said the source, who requested anonymity. “But Emil’s candidacy could be interesting. He knows how to build coalitions. He may be 78, but he’s vigorous, savvy, in good health and very smart. Hmmm.” 

Jones, an old school politician, started out as a Chicago sewer inspector and worked his way into the leadership structure of the Illinois Senate.

Stay tuned.

Moving on?

Pssst! Although rumors abound that President Barack Obama and his family will eschew Chicago as their home base when they leave the White House and settle in the East, Sneed hears first lady Michelle Obama also loves their glitter set in California and expressed an interest in having a home in Palm Springs — which, of course, would put them closer to Obama’s home state of Hawaii, natch.

Toni & Karen . . .

A coosome twosome? Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle and CTU President Karen Lewis — who were both eyeing a mayoral bid until Toni tubed a run — may share a visceral dislike for RahmEmanuel, but they are not kissin’ cousins.

◆ Backstory: The duo formed a “breakfast” relationship during the past 18 months, where they dined on Rahmster grist. Their relationship with Emanuel had grown so chilly, all three were spotted exiting Coco Pazzo restaurant at one point without ever acknowledging each other.

◆ Preckwinkle opted out of the race because of her political instincts. Lewis opted in because of her political ego.

CONTINUE READING MICHAEL SNEED’S COLUMN AT SUNTIMES.COM