I wasn’t at Bob Shaw’s press conference on Thursday announcing he’s running against Rahm Emanuel for mayor in 2015.
There are moments in Chicago politics you never want to miss.
Friday I tried to track him down, but it wasn’t easy. Shaw’s voicemail was filled. His campaign aide’s voicemail was as well.
What’s a reporter to do?
I dialed the most reliable number I could think of.
“Wallace’s Catfish Corner, can I help you?” said the voice on the other end of the phone.
There are those who might dismiss Wallace Davis, the former 27th ward alderman who went to prison for three years in 1987 on bribery and extortion charges. But Wallace is the best politician-finder I’ve ever known. And his West Side restaurant is a magnet for those who appreciate fine catfish and fried shrimp.
Wallace, I said, I can’t find Bob Shaw.
“Well, Carol, he’s right here!” exclaimed Wallace. Then I heard him yell across the restaurant, “Hey, young fella, I gotta news reporter who wants to talk to you.”
When Shaw came to the phone, I think it’s fair to say he wasn’t thrilled to find me on the other end. Over the years, I’ve written some stories about his remarkably lucky career as a public official who, having lost as many elections as he’s won, still landed on a public payroll. Thanks in no small part to his twin brother, the late Bill Shaw, who was both the mayor of south suburban Dolton and a state senator.
It was brother Bill who hired brother Bob as the $70,000-a-year inspector general of Dolton, a town of struggling African-American taxpayers. The impoverished town subsidized Bob’s salary, his health care, his government car, badge and gun. And, by law, spared him any unpopularity by barring him from investigating either the executive branch (his brother) or the legislative branch (the people who approved his salary).
When Bill died of cancer, Bob lost his IG post. He’s now moved to Chicago, registered to vote here, and says he’s running against Rahm Emanuel.
But before the current crop of aldermen in Chicago laugh any harder than they reportedly already have, let’s talk for just a second about life’s ups and downs.
There was a time when the Shaw brothers were on the skids. Those were the days when U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. built a political machine that kicked Bill out of his state Senate seat and Bob out of his Board of Review post.
But, ironies of ironies, Jesse is now in prison. His wife, Sandi, is headed there. Times change.
Emanuel won election in 2011 with a huge black vote. But these days black voters are furious with him.
“Closing the schools . . . it was offensive,” Shaw said.
“I know violence,” he said. “My son was shot and killed in 1997.”
Is Bob Shaw a viable candidate against Emanuel?
But has he identified a political vacuum? And jumped in to fill it?