Mitchell: Cuts in social programs are blood in the water

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Andre Smith, a former personal assistant to the Rev. Corey Brooks, is threatening to dish dirty details about the clergy’s efforts to help Gov. Bruce Rauner attract black voters.

“I sat in on 98 percent of Corey’s meetings with Rauner. Nobody knows what I know,” Smith told me Friday.

Apparently, it was a cozy partnership until Rauner pulled out an ax to tackle the state budget.

“I took a stand with Corey [during the campaign] that Rauner wasn’t going to do these things, so me and Corey fell out,” Smith said.


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“I believe that I am part of this dreadful thing that is hurting our people,” Smith said. “I believe that I should take the lead in helping to fix it.”

Smith, 47, twice ran for alderman in the 20th ward. He now has his sights on challenging state Rep. Ken Dunkin (D-Chicago).

Dunkin has come under fire for skipping the critical override vote on a major union bill. He was the only Democratic no-show, and his absence helped Rauner gain ground in his ongoing tug-of-war with House Speaker Michael Madigan.

The legislator was defiant when a reporter questioned him about the skipped vote.

“I told them emphatically that I was going out of town,” Dunkin told Chicago Tonight. “They knew damn well I was going to be gone.”

Though Dunkin took a lot of heat over the union bill, his failure to be present for the child-care vote was actually the bigger deal in the black community.

Because that override failed by one vote, 90 percent of the people who were eligible for child-care assistance will no longer qualify. That means a lot of families — already struggling to make ends meet — will have to decide between giving up low-wage jobs and leaving their babies with questionable care providers.

Smith claims when he told his ex-boss he intended to challenge Dunkin over cuts to social programs, Brooks balked.

Brooks did not return my phone calls for comment.

But the pastor of New Beginnings Church of Chicago was one of a handful of black clergy members to endorse Rauner over former Gov. Pat Quinn. In July, Rauner appointed Brooks to serve on the Illinois Tollway Board.

Smith predicted that his past relationship with Brooks would make the contest between him and Dunkin a “bloody” fight.

“I know the hit list. I know the names,” he told me.

One of names Smith mentioned was that of the Rev. James Meeks, a former state senator who is pastor of Salem Baptist Church. As an early Rauner supporter, Meeks caught a lot of flak from Democrats. But he denies being part of an “evil cabal” focused on defeating certain African-American legislators, as Smith claims.

“The way to win public office is not to make things up and not to scare other legislators to be on his side,” Meeks said, referring to Smith.

“There is no conspiracy to take out legislators. What Smith cannot do is use fear tactics by saying me, Corey and Rauner are going after black officials,” he said.

Smith says: Stay tuned.

What the late Alan Clark, a conservative, said of the British Parliament applies here as well:

“There are no true friends in politics. We are all sharks circling and waiting for traces of blood to appear in the water.”

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