Chance the Rapper’s celebrity endorsement didn’t do much to boost the candidacy of his first choice for mayor: Amara Enyia.
Now, he’s giving it a try for his second choice: Toni Preckwinkle.
Chicago’s Grammy Award-winning hip-hop artist held another City Hall news conference on Thursday — this time to endorse the county board president who faces Lori Lightfoot in the mayoral runoff April 2.
Flanked by black activists with whom he consulted before making the endorsement, Chance said, “The resounding voice has been that they don’t necessarily feel comfortable or safe going into a city where Lori Lightfoot sits on the fifth floor” of City Hall.
“Her past record as a prosecutor has not been in the best interest of young black people in Chicago, hasn’t been entirely truthful. And even her campaign and the image that she’s created since the February election has been … very untrue,” he said.
Those same activists — from groups like Black Lives Matter and Assata’s Daughters who have rallied around the #NoCopAcademy label — “appreciate Toni Preckwinkle,” Chance said.
“She stands in those same spaces and is for [community benefits agreements], for utilizing some of the funds that we’ve used — 40 percent of the city’s budget overall, actually — towards policing and redistributing that wealth and that funding to things that actually equip young black folks to accomplish what they need to and survive in this city,” Chance said.
MORE ABOUT THE RACE: Sun-Times Voting Guide
Chance said he wants “everybody to know the truth” before going to the polls on April 2, in what has been a “tiring” political process.
“The truth is that the most qualified person in terms of somebody who’s gonna look out for all the people of Chicago [and] account for the police, victims of gun crime, victims of economic crime is Toni Preckwinkle. So, I’m fully behind her,” he said.
Preckwinkle said she is proud to have the endorsement of a “musician who has used his voice to inspire other young people to get involved in the political process and in their communities.”
“I admire how he has used his influence to address the inequities in education and criminal justice throughout the city,” Preckwinkle said in a news release.
“It speaks to his nature as a public servant at heart. I look forward to collaborating with him to engage youth in the political process and on issues that matter to them.”
Chance promised to campaign with Preckwinkle through Election Day. Asked whether he also plans to contribute to her campaign, as he did to Enyia, he said, “I don’t have any more money for Chicago politics.”
SIDE BY SIDE: Lori Lightfoot’s and Toni Preckwinkle’s plans
The endorsement gives Preckwinkle a sorely needed victory during a week that saw her take the extraordinary step of pulling her television commercials off the air during the campaign’s crucial home stretch.
But the endorsement is hardly a surprise. Preckwinkle’s campaign co-chairman is Chance’s father, Ken Bennett. Bennett was an aide to former President Barack Obama and Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s top liaison to the African-American community.
“My dad said back in like June of last year that I should endorse Toni Preckwinkle. It’s a little late, but I’m here,” he said.
On Oct. 16, Chance held a City Hall news conference to endorse Enyia. He promised a “massive” voter registration drive to help her get elected.
“I’d like to say, very narcissistically, if I back you, you have chance — absolutely,” he said on that day.
“I want to work with somebody that’s about change. Somebody that’s about our community. Somebody that’s about fairness. And the one person in my research in this wide-open race [whose] views align with me would obviously be candidate Amara Enyia.”
To the cheers of his supporters, Chance turned to Enyia and said, “You are looking at the future mayor of Chicago.”
It didn’t work out that way. Not even after a $400,000 campaign contribution from Chance allowed Enyia to hit the television airwaves with a commercial tailor-made to boost participation among young voters notoriously indifferent about mayoral elections.
On Feb. 26, Enyia got just over 8 percent or 44,589 votes. She finished sixth in the field of 14. Turnout among young voters who participated heavily in the November election was disappointing to say the least.
Chance’s argument that Enyia was “about change” mirrors Lightfoot’s sale pitch.
Lightfoot has billed herself as a “change agent” in a change election dominated by the burgeoning City Hall corruption scandal.
She has portrayed Preckwinkle as chairman of the “broken” Democratic machine and a relic of the old way of doing business.
Chance was asked how he reconciles his endorsement of Preckwinkle with her ties to Ald. Edward Burke (14th), who was charged with attempted extortion for allegedly shaking down a Burger King franchise owner for legal business and for a $10,000 contribution to Preckwinkle’s re-election campaign as county board president.
“My understanding of it is that she’s separated herself from Burke,” Chance said, arguing that there is “a lot of noise about associations in this race” but not enough talk about policy.
Turning the tables on Lightfoot, Chance said, “We talk about machines a lot. But I think the justice system in America is a machine itself. To be a prosecutor — to be not on the side of families of victims of police crimes, to me, puts you in the machine.”
Chance went so far as to defend Preckwinkle’s ill-fated tax on sugary beverages.
“It was repealed. It was only in effect for a few months. She’s apologized for it,” Chance said.
“The black community has a huge problem with diabetes, food deserts and just health-related issues,” he said. “I never understood why people got away with the name calling and the whole representing her specifically by one tax plan that she had.”
Lightfoot said she has “great respect for Chance and the community activists and organizers across the city who are fighting for social justice” and shares their “passion and commitment to pursuing true police accountability.”
“As mayor, I will take my efforts to the next level by working with stakeholders who’ve been engaging in this fight from the get-go,” she said in a statement.
“I would create a robust youth committee to incorporate the perspectives and policy ideas of these activists into our city government. Young people have a voice. We just need to listen.”