Laura Washington: An alderman comes knocking at Mama’s door

SHARE Laura Washington: An alderman comes knocking at Mama’s door

The election bid of Ald. Sophia King (4th) got a high-profile boost — from former President Barack Obama. | Sun-Times file photo

Follow @MediaDervishMama was cooking up her prized chicken curry. Yum, the one with the hot, hot peppers.

“Somebody banged on the door,” my mother recalled last week. “It was a loud knock.”

You don’t want to irritate my mother, especially at dinner time.

“Who is it?!”

It was 4th Ward Ald. Sophia King, stumping with Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle.

The curry was forgotten.

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King is running in a Feb. 28 special aldermanic election. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel appointed her to the seat in April 2016, replacing Will Burns, who resigned last year to take a job with AirBnB.

King’s four opponents are working hard, but she had a huge edge out of the gate.

There is Emanuel’s gift of incumbency. And King claims a long friendship with former President Barack Obama, who still votes in his old neighborhood. Last month, Obama took the highly unusual step of endorsing King in the race.

King, an educator and co-founder of Ariel Community Academy in Kenwood-Oakland, has raised nearly $200,000, reports DNAInfo. She has lured endorsements from a plethora of Chicago influentials, the Chicago Sun-Times and the Independent Voters of Illinois Independent Precinct Organization of Illinois.

The diverse ward, which stretches from Hyde Park to Kenwood to Bronzeville to the Loop, is populated by academic and professional elites, working-class families, and many senior citizens.

The powerful Preckwinkle, who served as 4th Ward alderman from 1991 to 2010, is appearing for King throughout the ward.

And door knocking. My mom asked King, “Where have you been?”

“She looked at me, and I know she thought, ‘oh, I’ve got a live one here.’ ” Mama chuckled.

Mama has many strong opinions. I’ve heard them all. Like many in the ward, she is politically engaged and a tough sell.  She has lived in her Kenwood high-rise condo for more than 25 years.

At campaign forums, the candidates have debated issues such as economic development, affordable housing, TIF funding, taxes and crime.

Seniors like my mom are focused on the crucial housekeeping items an alderman will live — or die by. Mom is an assertive caller to the ward office, with complaints about CTA bus service, street cleaning, even the alderman’s office hours.

A congenital skeptic, she is wary of anybody who somebody sent. She loves Obama, but is annoyed that King is pushing the connection. “What are you going to do for the ward? That’s what we want to know.”

Preckwinkle’s support is the perfect antidote to the Emanuel connection. Some African-American voters look askew at an appointee of the embattled mayor. (King’s campaign bio doesn’t mention the appointment, natch).

King’s opponents all seem like fine people, an array of attorneys and community activists: Ebony Lucas, Gerald Scott McCarthy, Marcellus Moore Jr., and an activist minister, Gregory Seal Livingston. A special election against a connected incumbent is a tall order.

Back at the door, Preckwinkle did most of the talking, my mother recalled. King “seemed to be kind of quiet,” she said.

“She’s got a lot to learn.”

Whoever prevails on Feb. 28 — you will be hearing from mom.


Read 4th Ward aldermanic candidates’ answers to Sun-Times questionnaires and view candidate videos at

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