Before his Grammys, before his meeting with Gov. Bruce Rauner and before his generous donations to kids in the Chicago Public Schools, Chatham native Chance the Rapper included the following lyric in his 2015 song “Somewhere in Paradise:”
“They say I’m savin’ my city, say I’m stayin’ for good. They screamin’ Chano for mayor, I’m thinkin’ maybe I should.”
A group of young people wholeheartedly agree. That’s why on Sunday they launched a slick, new website, chano4mayor.com, and an accompanying Twitter account, @chano4mayor2k19, aiming to recruit the rapper into challenging Rahm Emanuel in the 2019 Chicago mayor’s race.
“We would be very happy if he ran,” said Bea Malsky, 23, a Chicago game designer and writer involved in the project.
But, at the very least, “We would be very happy if he’d become more politically involved and he endorsed a candidate who stands up for the same things that he stands up for in his music.”
Malsky said she and three friends had been working on the website weeks before Chance announced his $1 million donation to the CPS foundation and a string of subsequent $10,000 donations to individual schools. The announcement “gave us a lot of momentum and got us more excited” to start their online recruitment campaign, she said.
A spokesman for the rapper, whose given name is Chancelor Bennett, couldn’t be reached for comment.
The website that aims to draft Chance includes cartoon images of the rapper and quotes from several of his songs.
“He’s overtly political in his songs, so including direct quotes from them was an easy way to demonstrate some of his positions,” said Kalil Smith-Nuevelle, 23, a web developer who helped put together the site.
The site also references what the organizers say are some of Emanuel’s failings, including school closings, mental-health clinic shutdowns and the pattern of police misconduct found by the Department of Justice in the wake of the fatal shooting of Laquan McDonald by a Chicago cop.
Malsky said Emanuel is “directly responsible” for all of the above.
Matt McGrath, a spokesman for Emanuel, defended the mayor’s record on education and combating violence.
“We’re not thinking about an election that’s two years away,” McGrath said in an emailed statement. “We’re focused on continuing to build on the record educational gains our students and teachers are making at Chicago Public Schools, driving economic development in every neighborhood across the city and addressing our public-safety challenge by combating the scourge of gun violence.”
The draft-Chance website and Twitter account already are starting to draw eyeballs, including those of Antonio Turner, an Olive-Harvey College student who is tweeting the #chance4mayor hashtag.
“He’s someone that represents diversity in the community and in Chicago,” Turner, 22, said. “That’s what we need today.”
Although Chance has no political experience, Turner believes he can do a better job than Emanuel.
“[Rahm’s] No. 1 priority is to make Chicago business savvy,” Turner said. “It’s more than that. You can have this beautiful picture of Chicago, but there is a lot of pain within many communities.”
If Chance ever did decide to run against Emanuel, he’d be going against one of his father’s top political allies.
Chance’s father, Ken Bennett, has spent a lifetime in Chicago politics, including serving on former President Barack Obama’s White House staff before becoming a top aide to Emanuel at City Hall.
The elder Bennett’s role as Emanuel’s chief liaison to the African-American community turned into a political hot seat during the unrelenting furor over the mayor’s handling of the McDonald shooting video. At one point, Ken Bennett nearly got beat up when he and another mayoral aide tried to deliver a letter from Emanuel to families impacted by the police shootings of Quintonio LeGrier and LeGrier’s innocent neighbor Bettie Jones.
A few months later, Bennett left the mayor’s office to take a job at the Choose Chicago tourism agency.
The young people who want to draft Chance aren’t alone in using the web to recruit potential Emanuel challengers. A Facebook page, “Trying To Get Barack Obama To Run For Mayor Of Chicago,” has more than 50 likes.