Carol Moseley Braun’s Quixotic Bid for Mayor of Chicago

The former Illinois senator wasn't the first choice of the black power elite to take on Rahm Emanuel in the crowded mayoral race. Or the second.

Scott Olson/Getty Images
Scott Olson/Getty Images

Getting the nod as the black consensus candidate for next month’s Chicago mayoral election worked like a charm for Carol Moseley Braun — the third time around.

The first time the coalition of the Windy City’s self-appointed black power elites met to bless one of the half dozen or so African Americans vying to replace the unexpectedly retiring Richard M. Daley, Braun was not the first choice, or the second. Those honors went to the Rev. James Meeks, an Illinois state legislator who boasts ministering a mega-church with 20,000 faithful, and Larry R. Rogers Jr., a prominent personal-injury attorney and commissioner of the Cook County Board of Review (property taxes).

Nor was Braun the first choice the second time around, after Rogers opted out, and when the reality set in that many of Chicago’s white and Hispanic voters might just not be that into the anti-gay, pro-school vouchers Meeks. During Round 2, Rep. Danny Davis was crowned the one-who-would-mostly-get-most-of-the-black-votes.

The second decree of the coalition of aldermen, business leaders and community activists worked just fine for Davis — but Braun, not so much. Mission unaccomplished.

Finally, after a year’s-end intervention, with the Rev. Jesse L. Jackson summoning both candidates to a late-night meeting at Rainbow PUSH, Davis stood down on New Year’s Eve. That left Braun, who had the support of two of Chicago’s most prominent business titans — John W. Rogers Jr., chairman, CEO and chief investment officer of Ariel Investments, and real estate mogul Elzie Higginbottom — as the last viable black candidate standing.

The notion that Braun, the first and only black woman to serve as a U.S. senator and a former U.S. ambassador to New Zealand, was a viable contender, and the belief that a black consensus candidate was a viable strategy, both lasted for about 3½ days — and since then, it’s been one “oops” moment after the next.

As a harbinger of missteps to come, on Dec. 29, just two days before Week 1 of her “The One” campaign began, Braun got into the first of her two pissing matches with folks who buy their ink by the barrel.

In response to a critical column by Neil Steinberg of the Chicago Sun-Times, Braun lashed out at the columnist during a news conference to outline her public-safety platform, stating that, “He is a drunk and a wife beater, and that’s a matter of record. I didn’t make that up. It’s the truth.”

Steinberg, in his column headlined, “Carol, I Miss You Already,” had facetiously claimed, “part of me wishes she had a snowball’s chance in hell of becoming Chicago’s next mayor,” because he’d have so many things to ridicule in a hypothetical Braun administration.