Kwame Raoul slams the door on challenging Emanuel

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State Sen. Kwame Raoul, D-Chicago, said Friday there is no movement in the black community to draft him to challenge Mayor Rahm Emanuel and he wouldn’t respond to a draft, even if there was one.

“When I’m ready to do something else — and I’m sure that day will come — I will say it before anybody else says it. This is not the time,” Raoul said.

“There have been people who have run campaigns who were ill-prepared for the job or the campaign. I’m never going to put myself in that position just to satisfy people who are disenchanted with an incumbent or just want to see a race. It’s got to be something I’ve studied and prepared for.”

Earlier this week, the political landscape changed.

It happened after County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, the big-name challenger City Hall feared most, dropped out of the mayor’s race even before jumping in.

The following day, Raoul joined a parade of potential mayoral challengers who told the Chicago Sun-Times he was not interested in taking on Emanuel, whose poll numbers are in the tank.

That left Ald. Bob Fioretti (2nd) and Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis, who has gone toe-to-toe with Emanuel, but never run for political office, as the biggest-names in politics even considering the race.

Chicago Sun-Times columnist Michael Sneed has reported that black business and civic leaders were searching for an alternative to Lewis and have focused on two names: 78-year-old Emil Jones, the former Il. Senate president, and Raoul.

On Friday, Raoul said he has been approached by people on the street about running for governor, attorney general, state’s attorney and mayor. But, he argued that no one in a position of power or influence has brought it up, nor would he respond if they did.

“The job is a heavy job. There are monumental problems that, whoever is elected will have to tackle. These are problems built over decades. It’s not something you do flippantly,” Raoul said.

“I’m not going to just throw myself out there without due diligence. If I were running for mayor, you would have heard about it six months ago.”

Emanuel has alienated African-American voters who helped put him in office by instigating Chicago’s first teachers strike in 25 years, closing 50 public schools, opening new charter schools and unveiling plans to build new schools and school additions, with the educational largesse heavily concentrated on the North Side.

That includes a $14 million addition to Walter Payton College Prep and a new, $60 million selective enrollment high school nearby named after President Barack Obama, whose 2011 endorsement of his former White House chief-of-staff sealed the deal with black voters.

A recent Chicago Sun-Times poll showed how big a price the first-term mayor has paid for those decisions and for violent crime concentrated in South and West Side neighborhoods. Only 29 percent of those surveyed and eight percent of African-Americans said they would support Emanuel if the election were held today.

In the mayor’s defense, Raoul said Emanuel “inherited some incredible challenges” tied to violence, finances and schools that have forced him to make unpopular decisions. But, the senator argued that the “disenchantment” with Emanuel is more about style than substance.

“Rahm doesn’t sugar-coat anything he says. When he decides to go in a certain direction, he goes full-speed,” Raoul said.

“I don’t want to be throwing darts. But, when you’re making difficult decisions, it’s important to note that there is a community of people who are impacted and want to feel included in solving their community’s problems. Whether by perception or reality, there are folks who don’t feel that way.”

Emanuel has responded to the Sun-Times poll by acknowledging that he has alienated some Chicago voters with his polarizing personal style and would benefit politically from being “smoother around the edges.”

But, he has also said he ran for mayor on a promise to confront vexing problems “swept under the rug” and he’s not about to compromise his principles.

“The moment you decide that you’re gonna blow with the wind, folks are smart and they’ll smell it,” he told reporters in response to the poll.

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