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Democrats should support a qualified Black woman like Ald. Pat Dowell

Cook County Democratic Party committeepersons met behind closed doors earlier this month to choose a slate for statewide and local races.

Ald. Pat Dowell (3rd).
Ald. Pat Dowell (3rd)
Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

Black women matter. That was Ald. Pat Dowell’s angry response to the Cook County Democratic Party’s decision to endorse former state Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias for secretary of state in the June 2022 primary.

Cook County Democratic Party committee members met behind closed doors earlier this month to choose a slate for statewide and local races.

State Rep. Dan Brady of Bloomington is the only Republican in the race so far.

Dowell, an African American, represents Chicago’s 3rd Ward. She is facing off with Giannoulias, Chicago City Clerk Anna Valencia and 17th Ward Ald. David Moore. Moore is also African American; Valencia, Latina; Giannoulias, white.

The party’s coveted slating brings recognition, money and troops. Democratic committeepersons decided, by weighted vote, who to support.

It takes a lot to get Dowell riled. She is focused, even-tempered and doesn’t whine. All qualities I wish more of her colleagues would emulate.

Now she is “angry,” she told me last week via Zoom. She has given much to the Democratic Party and expected more in return, she said.

Dowell has served as a committeeperson since 2008 and worked to build voter turnout and engagement. She also sits on the party’s executive committee.

“I just cannot believe that I couldn’t get their support,” she said.

Is this just one more example of how white men always prevail?

“I’m not one to play the political race card,” she replied.

Still, “I got a raw deal,” she said, adding that Democrats will regret backing a “flawed candidate.”

Giannoulias was state treasurer from 2007 to 2011. He ran for the U.S. Senate in 2010 but lost to Republican Mark Kirk. Giannoulias faced controversy, including a scandal over the failed Broadway Bank, a community bank founded by his father.

Now he is lining up heavy-hitting political endorsements and has more than $3.8 million on hand, according to Reform for Illinois, which tracks campaign cash.

Viability matters. Black women matter, too.

Black women are the cornerstone of the Democratic Party. In the November 2020 presidential election, 91% of Black women voted for Joe Biden, the Democratic presidential nominee.

In the 2018 mid-term elections, they were more likely than women in any other racial or ethnic group to support Democratic House candidates, according to an AP VoteCast survey.

“And I think Black women have shown their loyalty and support for the Democratic Party and carry the Democratic Party,” Dowell said. In return, her party should support a qualified Black woman like her. “I believe that it’s important to connect with those voters and to have them see a face that they can trust.”

The Broadway Bank controversy and other “missteps” will bog Giannoulias down, she predicted.

“I don’t think Alexi helps (the Democratic ticket). I think he’s a drag on it, and I think it would have been wiser to have a woman. And a Black woman.”

Sour grapes? Dowell has raised $600,000 so far but is in the race to stay, she says.

The 2022 mid-term elections won’t be a slam dunk for Democrats. While Illinois trends blue, Ken Griffin, the billionaire Citadel founder, reportedly may donate up to $300 million to a GOP candidate who will take on Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker next year.

Democrats risk indifference, even hostility from the base, Dowell warned.

“I think people will see that they missed an opportunity to support me.”

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