Absorbing space on national political headlines, the race for Mayor of Chicago continues heating up as a new round of ambitious pols enter the crowded field of prospective candidates. Prominent Washington brand names such as White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr. (D-IL) and Rep. Lois Gutierrez (D-IL) are already positioning themselves for what some believe will be a caustic primary in February 2011. Recent polls suggest, however, that Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart – currently running for re-election – has a decent lead over other possible contenders.
Another Washington name that few have heard from over the years is former one-term U.S. Senator Carol Moseley-Braun, who is reportedly mulling a bid for the Windy City’s top post. Braun has already dispatched supporters to distribute nomination petitions in what is a clear signal of the former Clinton-appointed Ambassador’s intention to make a serious run. Braun, whose Senate re-election hopes were dashed after a controversial 1996 visit to Nigerian dictator Sani Abacha, describes herself as a “recovering politician” on the Ambassador Organics website, an organic food subsidiary she runs as Founder and President under her Good Food Organics holding company which was established in 2005.
Yet, Braun’s latest comments suggest a fairly standard trajectory for an aggressive grassroots campaign as she plans “a conversation with the people of Chicago about the course our city is going to take.” If she were to win, she would be the first African American woman elected as Mayor of Chicago.
Meanwhile, Jackson is fending off reports from sources that a political fundraiser tied to the corruption case of former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich (D) has told federal prosecutors that the Congressman directed a multi-million dollar offer to the disgraced Governor in exchange for President Barack Obama’s former Senate seat. In a recent WLS-AM Chicago radio interview, Jackson tells prosecutors to “bring it on” in an attempt to brush off allegations, even as a probe by the House Ethics Committee is still on hold.
“The prospect of running for Mayor of Chicago, and its large patronage potential, however, must have been enough to finally get him to speak up ahead of the January retrial,” observes Chicago Now political blogger Michael Ciric. “Jackson knows he needs to deflect any doubts about his character if he wants to launch a successful mayoral campaign.”
Others suggest that Jackson may actually be setting the stage for his wife Sandi Jackson, a current Chicago Alderman. Many sources close to Jackson believe the Congressman’s ethics woes, while presently unproven, will prove too distracting for a city emotionally drained from its reputation for pay-to-play. “My husband and I will sit down and decide if either of us will run,” said Alderman Jackson in comments to NBC Chicago’s Ward Room. All signs point to a Jackson family power play.
One senior Democratic Congressional aide familiar with the situation believes it’s “all about Sandi.”
“The Congressman is her biggest supporter,” said the aide in comments to Politic365.com. “I think it’s all about her at the moment.”
In other developments, Politico reports that Rahm Emanuel’s advisors feel confident about recent polling numbers and that the White House Chief of Staff “hasn’t shut down the speculation” that he’s running for Mayor.