A sequel to a long running Chicago political story — “All in the Family” — is playing out in the behind-the-scenes maneuvering to fill the vacancy created by State Rep. Melissa Conyears-Ervin’s election as city treasurer.
Ald. Walter Burnett (27th) is pushing his stepson, Jawaharial “Omar” Williams, to replace Conyears-Ervin in the 10th District.
“Why not him? Just cause he’s related to me? Melissa was Jason’s wife. They’re in the same government. And we supported her big-time. Jesse White did all of her commercials. So I don’t know why folks wouldn’t support somebody that’s related to us. Tell me what the difference is,” Burnett said Wednesday.
“That’ll be in Springfield. He’ll do his job. It won’t have anything to do with my job.”
Democratic committeemen from ten wards are scheduled to meet on May 17 to fill the vacancy.
Burnett will cast 28.9 percent of the weighted vote, followed by Ald. Jason Ervin (28th), Conyears-Ervin’s husband, with 17.9 percent. If Burnett, Ervin and Ald. Emma Mitts (37th) all back Burnett’s stepson, Williams will have the votes he needs to fill the vacancy.
Williams is no stranger to the family business.
He served with Ervin in the Young Democrats and has been a key player in the 27th Ward Regular Democratic Organization helping in the campaigns of White, Conyears-Ervin and Gov. J.B. Pritzker.
Williams has a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and still aspires to go to law school. But Burnett said his stepson “got a summer job” with the city’s Department of Water Management sixteen years ago and “never left.”
Williams’ mother and the alderman’s wife is former Cook County Commissioner Darlena Williams Burnett. She ran for state representative in 2010, is a former chief deputy recorder of deeds and now serves as deputy chief of facilities at the Chicago Housing Authority.
Burnett pointed to previous chapters of the “All in the Family” saga written by the Daley, Madigan, Mell, Lipinski, Vrdolyak, Cullerton and Hynes families, just to name a few.
“My son don’t have it. It’s not guaranteed. But who would I be if I didn’t push my son? … I’d do anything for my kids. It’s natural,” he said.
What about those voters who are sick and tired of nepotism, Chicago style?
“They just elected Melissa Conyears-Ervin. … She won overwhelmingly and she’s Jason Ervin’s wife. It don’t seem like they want to end it,” he said.
Burnett argued that Ervin “owes” him in exchange for the formidable support that Conyears-Ervin got from the 27th Ward Regular Democratic Organization.
But Ervin said, “I haven’t made any decisions on the representative district at all. I don’t even know all the candidates who are gonna be up for consideration. At the appropriate time, I’ll cast my lot.”
Mitts could not be reached.
Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd) will cast the third-highest weighted vote, at nearly 17.6 percent.
Waguespack said he has never met Williams, has no idea what qualifications he brings to the job and is troubled by the secretive nature of the process.
“I don’t think anybody realizes that there is an opening, that there are committeemen [about] to make a decision and, unless, you and a couple others write it, have any idea that Walter Burnett is pushing his stepson,” Waguespack said.
Waquespack, chairman of the City Council’s Progressive Caucus, was asked whether he’s tired of Chicago politicians clouting their kids into political openings that almost nobody else knows even exist.
“It’s really up to the voters in that area to decide whether it’s wrong. And it’s pretty obvious enough of them haven’t felt that was the case. If they’re gonna step out of that mold, they have to start voting that way. I haven’t seen that yet,” he said.
Other candidates for the 10th District seat include: WVON Radio host Maze Jackson; Jesse White underlings Chavonne Carter and Dwight Lee; Gerard Moorer, an aide to Congressman Danny Davis and former state Rep. Eddie Winters.
“The last time Walter [Burnett] chose somebody, we got Derrick Smith. That ended up pretty horribly,” Waguespack said.
Smith was expelled from the Illinois House after being indicted on bribery charges, but won re-election anyway. He was forced to step down from the Illinois House after his conviction.
Burnett’s behind-the-scenes maneuverings were first reported by the Daily Line.
Jackson said he considers Williams and Burnett friends and “won’t disparage” either one of them.
The talk show host said he plans to appear before 10th District committeemen and run “a few months later” no matter whom the ward bosses choose.
“I’d look forward to presenting my case directly to the people … over politicians,” Jackson wrote in an email to the Sun-Times.
“I believe the people of the 10th District are ready for a representative [who] will hold people accountable, bring back economic resources, and get an answer to [the question], `What’s in it for the Black People?’ “