They are Obama 2.0. They are the up-and-coming politicos who once worked alongside a president.
They started as young, African-American unknowns, ambitiously eager to step up via President Barack Obama’s bootstraps. Ald. Will Burns (4th), State Sen. Kwame Raoul, and State Rep. Christian Mitchell all worked in Obama campaigns and operations.
Their carefully crafted careers emulate Obama’s mantra of community and public service, and echo his idealistic call for change. They are a new breed of black elected officials who straddle establishment and progressive politics, with rainbow appeal.
In Washington, D.C., the nattering nabobs of “no” give the president plenty of grief. In Chicago, the Obama name is golden, especially among African Americans.
Now comes LaDarius Curtis, who touts a made-for-politics bio. The only child of a single mom on the city’s West Side. North Lawndale has been economically depressed for decades. Curtis 34, got out with a big assist from family, earned a political science degree from Kenyon College and then an MBA.
He worked on African-American outreach for then-Sen. Barack Obama, and on real estate deals at the U.S. General Services Administration.
He is in a hurly-burly race for an alderman of Chicago’s 24th Ward, vying against nine competitors for the open seat. Four-term Ald. Michael Chandler nixed a reelection bid.
Curtis criticizes the ward’s leadership as “silent” for far too long. His campaign motto: “We deserve better.”
In an interview, he promises to be a “connector” to business owners, constituents and City Hall, and ticked off the grim list of ills endemic in his ward: no jobs, scarce economic development, rampant crime and failing schools.
“I am here to change that. I am here to be that voice. I am here to stand up for my community.”
He recalls once asking Obama, “How can I be a person of impact? ” Obama replied by quoting the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”
The Obama cachet can bring cash that’s hard to come by on the West Side. On Monday night a raft of connected operatives will gather for a fundraiser at 270 Strategies, a muscular River West consulting firm that is chock-full of veterans of Obama’s two presidential campaigns.
“Please join David Axelrod,” the invitation reads, along with an Obama “alumni support committee.” It includes boldface Obama-ites like Tom Bowen, Pete Giangreco and David Spielfogel, who is now running Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s reelection campaign. Pete Rouse, who served as Obama’s White House chief of staff, has dispatched a fundraising letter for Curtis.
Curtis wants an elected school board for Chicago, and argues the city needs more police officers. Those positions are anathema to Emanuel.
His campaign is not about Rahm, Curtis says. “The residents of the 24th ward don’t always think about the mayor. They think about what’s going on in their lives, what’s going on door to door.”Other notables in the race include Michael Scott Jr., the namesake and son of the late Michael Scott, Sr., the Chicago Board of Education president who committed suicide in 2009. Frank Bass is a consultant who has worked in county government, has won endorsements from the Chicago Teachers Union and IVI/IPO. This crowded field is headed for a runoff.
Will Obama 2.0 be in the mix?
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