LAURA WASHINGTON: The silver lining to a mayoral bid by McCarthy
Subscribe for unlimited digital access.
Try one month for $1!
Subscribe for unlimited digital access. Try one month for $1!
The sheriff is back in town.
Well, actually, he never left, but former Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy may be emerging from City Hall exile and gunning for the fifth floor.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel fired McCarthy in December 2015 at the apex of the Laquan McDonald police shooting debacle. His top cop had become a “distraction,” Emanuel said.
On Wednesday, the Gary McCarthy for Mayor Exploratory Committee was filed with the Illinois State Board of Elections, listing a Northwest Side address.
McCarthy and his fans believe he was a scapegoat, a sacrificial lamb to Emanuel’s ongoing crusade to repair his image and resurrect his mayoralty.
McCarthy, who has been working as a security consultant, isn’t talking about the committee. If the effort is real, McCarthy could be the first serious hat in the 2019 mayoral election ring.
Since he was unceremoniously dumped from a job he loved, he’s been on a revenge bend, making occasional attacks on Emanuel in speeches and media appearances.
In April, he told WLS-AM 890 that “a lot of people” are urging him to run for mayor.
Why not? McCarthy has more motivation to take on Emanuel than any other boldface mayoral wannabe.
In the wake of his firing, the Chicago Police Department has earned a notorious, international reputation for racial discrimination and misconduct. McCarthy must dearly want to reset that narrative.
McCarthy the candidate would likely push a conservative, law and order agenda. He has defended cops and criticized Emanuel’s hot-and-cold efforts at police reform.
Emanuel’s government is “illegitimate,” McCarthy has said. To cure violence, Emanuel chose a “political strategy and a communications strategy,” instead of a data-driven “crime strategy,” he said in an interview. Anti-police attitudes and policies, he says, are “empowering criminals” at the expense of police morale and public safety.
That line could play well with police officers and other city workers, particularly from the city’s white enclaves.
McCarthy, however, was never warmly embraced by many rank-and-file Chicago cops. They distrusted the Bronx-accented top cop who was imported from the East Coast. Some viewed him as just another Emanuel lackey.
A McCarthy candidacy could also repel disgruntled black voters even more than the current mayor.
In January, the U.S. Justice Department concluded that the Chicago Police Department “engages in a pattern or practice of use of excessive force” that violated the Constitutional rights of Chicagoans. Of course, McCarthy was the top cop of that very department.
Emanuel stonewalled the release of the McDonald tape until his hand was forced by the courts.
While Emanuel pays painful penance to reingratiate himself with voters of color, McCarthy doubles down, arguing the incendiary tape of the McDonald killing should never have been released.
“There’s not an attorney that I’ve spoken to who likes the idea of having evidence in a case that’s being prosecuted or pending being released to the public right now,” he said last year during a speech to the City Club of Chicago.
McCarthy’s resume lacks hefty expertise in finance, economic and community development, and other must-haves for anyone who wants to be a big city public servant.
McCarthy must know that. So perhaps he will run solely to harass and hammer Emanuel on his biggest vulnerabilities — city violence and the state of Chicago policing, ensuring those issues stay front and center.
Now that would be a true public service.
Send letters to: firstname.lastname@example.org