If U.S. Rep. Danny Davis, D-Ill., is certain about one thing, it’s that Rahm Emanuel will face tough questions about school closings in his next run for mayor.
No, that’s not earth-shattering. What is significant, though, is the rumblings of discontent that keep coming from the African-American community when it comes to the mayor. And it’s no secret that in Chicago, the only thing more powerful than having all the money in the world is the black vote.
Davis joined the contest in 2010 after religious leaders and black elected officials urged his candidacy. He later dropped out to clear a path for former Sen. Carol Moseley-Braun, who ultimately lost big to Emanuel in 2011.
Emanuel mopped up, winning 59 percent of the black vote. He said at the time was due to his “Target Town Halls.”
This time around, Emanuel faces a wicked backlash over last year’s school closings in African-American communities.
What reached me was a rumor that Davis was taking part in an effort to challenge Emanuel.
Not true, Davis said. In fact, when I called, he said he had just gotten off the phone with Emanuel and had a pleasant chat about a new program the mayor was putting together to help ex-offenders get back into jobs. Still, I wasn’t hearing a resounding backing of Emanuel from Davis, the longtime rep of the 7th congressional district, which covers parts of Cook County, the city’s West Side, Maywood as well as Oak Park.
It’s clear that Emanuel’s decision to close 54 schools remains an open wound.
“People are not happy about that,” Davis said of school closings. “But whether or not they have generated a candidate or whether a candidate has emerged, I’m just not certain that has happened.”
The Chicago Teachers Union, which went on strike for two weeks to revolt against Emanuel’s policies, is champing at the bit to find a formidable challenger.
Whatever happens, Davis said schools will dominate the campaign.
“I think that may be the major issue in the election,” he said. “There will be a tremendous amount of focus on education centered around the mayoral election.”
Does that translate into Davis working to mobilize opposition to Emanuel?
“I haven’t had any conversations (about) supporting Rahm or not supporting Rahm,” Davis told me.
However, Davis didn’t parse his words last week when he talked to two reporters following his remarks at the City Club of Chicago.
We asked Davis about his backing of a Cook County commissioner candidate, Richard Boykin, a former Davis chief of staff. Davis outright charged that Emanuel was out to control his candidate. A campaign spokesman for Emanuel declined to comment.
“I think that he represents a politically independent view and that he will represent the people of the district just as I’ve been able to do the time I’ve been in public office,” Davis said. “I think they’re more concerned about his independence. They can’t say he’s not bright. They can’t say he’s not intelligent. They can’t say he doesn’t have a good track record.
But the independence — he will not be beholden to any other political entity except the people of that first county district.”
Are you saying that Rahm Emanuel’s candidate would be beholden to Rahm Emanuel?
And that’s what Rahm Emanuel would want? “Yes.”
“[Boykin] wouldn’t be anybody’s puppet because he has a sense of integrity, relative to this whole process of political representation and that’s why I’m supporting him,” Davis said. “We think that Richard Boykin will represent us and if there is every time when there is a conflict between representing us and representing the president of the county board or the mayor of Chicago, we know that Richard Boykin is going to be with us.”
Are people asking Davis to run for Mayor?
“Yes. Yes. They have,” Davis said.
“No, I’m not,” Davis said. “I’ve ruled it out.”
“I’m not at this moment at the point where I will say who should be running or what should be the direction of city government. I’m trying to help direct the federal government. That’s tough enough,” he said. “Right now, I think it’s a bit early.”
That’s good news for Emanuel.
If he wants to mend wounds, he better start visiting Targets.