New entry in mayor’s race a contender overnight

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Willie Wilson, a candidate for mayor of Chicago, has put $1 million of his own money into the race.

Any reaction to Willie Wilson’s announcement that he is plowing $1 million into his mayoral campaign?No comment, Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s responded at last week’s press availability.OPINION

Emanuel may have had little to say at the podium, but behind closed doors I’ll bet he delivered a favorite curse word, or two.Wilson, a virtual political unknown, rolled into 2015 with the $1 million loan to his incipient campaign, netting him reams of publicity and turning him into a contender overnight.Emanuel now has three high-profile challengers in the Feb. 24 mayoral election. For the mayor, the more is not the merrier.  He needs 50 percent plus one more vote to win outright on Feb. 24, or the two top vote-getters go to a runoff.  That’s a dangerous place for an incumbent.Wilson is also African-American. The black vote is crucial in this race. Some black voters are angry, dissatisfied with Emanuel’s schools policy, endemic violent crime and scarce jobs.Race-based voting still matters. Some will lean to one of their own, especially one with a profile.As Wilson likes to proclaim, he’s no politician. But he’s got a made-for-politics story, promises to spend big, and has a presumed black base.That’s could also be bad news for Cook County Commissioner Jesus “Chuy” Garcia and 2nd Ward Ald. Bob Fioretti, who have spent a goodly amount of energy cultivating that vote.  (Another contender, Bill Walls, is a perennial candidate who lacks money and the standing to compete).Emanuel was hoping that a prominent African-American would not be on the ballot. That’s why the mayor’s supporters mounted a challenge to Wilson’s petitions. He later dropped it after Wilson’s people charged the move was racially motivated.Wilson’s congenial, direct style appeals. His bio is tailor-made for older voters, who are more likely to turn out in the dead of winter.Born poor in Louisiana and raised by sharecropper parents, Wilson once mopped floors at a McDonald’s, and rose to make millions as a franchise operator. Now he is CEO of a medical supply company and TV producer. He claims to have donated $15 million to churches and other faith-based charities in the last two decades.  He lost a son to gang violence.Black church goers know Wilson’s syndicated Gospel Show, “Singsation.” (I’m told by one fan, though, that he can’t carry a tune). They watched him last year, as he stumped for Gov.-Elect Bruce Rauner at churches around town.For the Chicago media, the more is indeed merrier. We salivate at the prospect of a real race. Last week, we tossed Wilson a bucket of softball questions, then eagerly regurgitated his storied tale of the nice millionaire who wants to make Chicago better for all.Wilson could be a potent threat, so the hardball questions will come.How does his businesses experience prepare him to run a big city that’s in deep financial distress?Where will he find new revenues to fund his promises, like reopening schools and putting more cops on the street?What will voters think about another Wilson son, who has publicly accused him of being an absent and unresponsive father?Will Wilson’s outspoken Christian devotion put off some voters?It’s just seven weeks to Election Day. Is that enough time for a novice politician to make the cut?Inquiring minds will surely want to know. Email:Twitter: @MediaDervish

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