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‘Flabbergasted’: Some can’t understand Dorothy Brown’s decision to run for mayor

Circuit Court Clerk Dorothy Brown, shown here in March, is the most recent African-American to enter a crowded field for the 2019 mayoral race. Five of the current seven candidates are black. | Erin Brown/Sun-Times

In 2007, Circuit Court Clerk Dorothy Brown explained her landslide loss to then-Mayor Richard M. Daley by saying voters did not “understand the magnitude of the crime and corruption” that had occurred on Daley’s watch.

With Brown poised to enter her second race for mayor, black elected officials and political pundits are making similar claims about her.

They can’t understand why she’s running for mayor instead of running for cover four years into a federal grand jury investigation into alleged job- and promotion-selling in her office that has already bagged two targets.


“I’m flabbergasted. It doesn’t compute for me why anybody would do that unless it’s to raise money. People have been known to do that before. Run for office as a way of raising money for a legal defense,” said Jacky Grimshaw, who served as a top aide to former Mayor Harold Washington.

Brown’s political committee, Friends of Dorothy Brown, reported a balance of $4,093 as of March 31. Money donated to that fund could be used for legal expenses.

Asked whether Brown has a chance in a race against two-term incumbent Rahm Emanuel that’s getting more crowded by the day, Grimshaw said: “Of course not. All Rahm has to do is put out the FBI stuff and she’s dead in the water.”

More job-selling allegations emerge in Brown investigation
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Brown wants accusers prosecuted for lying to feds

Delmarie Cobb is an African-American political consultant who knows Brown and her grass-roots, church–based constituency after working on the clerk’s 2012 re-election campaign.

That was four years before the Cook County Democratic Party took the highly unusual step of dumping Brown as its endorsed candidate — and replacing her with by Ald. Michelle Harris (8th) — only to have Brown breeze to re-election.

Cupcake display at Dorothy Brown’s victory party in 2016. | Mitchell Armentrout/For the Sun-Times

Having survived that indignity, Cobb firmly believes, Brown has no ulterior motive. She’s in it to win it and has convinced herself she can defeat a fractured field.

Cobb dismissed the conspiracy theory floated Thursday by two African-American elected officials: that Brown may have been encouraged to enter the race by Emanuel to draw African-American votes away from former Chicago Public Schools CEO Paul Vallas and Police Board President Lori Lightfoot.

“I don’t believe she is doing this [to help] Rahm Emanuel. She would be feeding her ego more than she would be acquiescing to Rahm Emanuel,” Cobb said.

“It’s to send a message that, `You keep trying to kill me in the Democratic Party but I’m not dead and I’m not going anywhere.'”

During her 2007 campaign, Brown got 19.6 percent of the vote to Daley’s 71.6 percent.

Daley shook off three years of corruption scandals of his own and captured all 20 black wards. He even beat Brown nearly 2-to-1 on her home 8th Ward turf.

The clerk’s issue-oriented campaign, released position papers on five key topics: housing, ethics, transportation, public safety and economic development.

But, she was frozen out by Daley’s failure to debate and could not afford to match Daley’s three-week television blitz.

She also got no help.

Weeks after Daley endorsed Barack Obama’s presidential bid, then-Senator Obama returned the favor, arguing that City Hall corruption that once gave him “huge pause” about Daley is being cleaned up.

Dorothy Brown at 2017 Columbus Day Parade.

Clerk of the Circuit Court Dorothy Brown shakes hands during the 2017 Columbus Day Parade in Chicago. | Kevin Tanaka/For the Sun Times

Black professionals held fund-raisers for Daley. Vanquished mayoral challenger Bobby Rush called Daley a “great mayor” who did a “fantastic job” and “deserves another term.”

State Sen. James Meeks (D-Chicago) said Brown “didn’t have a possible chance of winning,” reducing her to tears. Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) also climbed on the Daley bandwagon.

Brown was so desperate for a major endorsement, she reached out to Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton. No endorsement ever came.

This time around, Cobb believes Brown’s entry into a race that may include Lightfoot and already includes black challengers Ja’Mal Green; Troy LaRavierre; Willie Wilson; and Neal Sales-Griffin will keep Obama on the sidelines.

“It would be reprehensible with this many black candidates running against Rahm Emanuel for Obama to then come in and anoint Rahm Emanuel like he did the last time,” Cobb said. “With all of these people running, it brings attention to the fact that Rahm Emanuel has done a poor job in the black community and people are dissatisfied. It makes that the main topic of discussion in the campaign.”

Yet another black elected official argued that, despite the federal corruption cloud hanging over her head, Brown and her dedicated followers simply cannot be counted out.

“People in the black community love her. She has a real ‘us-against-them, it’s-our time’ appeal,” the official said. “She can motivate a crowd.”