Eager to revive his legacy and recover from the taint of former and convicted Gov. Rob Blagojevich’s (D-IL) corruption scandal, outgoing Sen. Roland Burris (D-IL) is making a silent, yet aggressive exploratory bid for Mayor of Chicago. Should he gather enough petitions and support, the lone African American in the U.S. Senate could be the next in a crowded, eclectic field of longtime politicians, activists and Mayoral wannabes expected to enter the city’s Democratic primary in February 2011.
Supporters of Burris in Chicago are attempting to draft him into the race, with 20,000 petition signatures filed on his behalf this week. Burris is publicly ambivalent about the prospect of a run and the draft effort, only to say: “Go ahead and do it, I’ll look at it.”
Chicagoan Toni Randle, a longtime Burris friend, said the outgoing senator knew of the efforts and wouldn’t promise to run — but he didn’t stop it either.
“He kind of chuckled and said if this is what the community wants to do then by all means go for it,” Randle said. “I think he will eventually bow to the will of the people. If the people want Roland Burris to be mayor then he will run for mayor.”
Burris signed the statement of candidacy that was filed with the petitions and is weighing whether to run, a spokeswoman confirmed. Burris did not return telephone calls for comment.
Running for Mayor could be an attractive career game-change for Burris who has dealt with the dark cloud of scandal since his appointment by Gov. Blagojevich in 2009 to fill President Barack Obama’s vacant Senate seat. Since then, Burris has become one of the most unpopular politicians in the country and could not muster enough grassroots, operational or fundraising support to mount a serious full-term election bid in 2010. In addition, it could help raise the profile of Burris as he leaves office saddled with nearly $800,000 in debt.
It won’t be the first time Burris has made a run for Mayor. In 1995, he ran against now outgoing Mayor Richard Daley (D), and snagged less than 40% of the vote. Burris’ entrance into the 2011 primary could pose problems for the other big name Black candidates like former U.S. Senator and Ambassador Carol Moseley Braun (D-IL), popular State Senator and Reverend James Meeks (D-Chicago) and Congressman Danny Davis (D-IL). Some observers suggest the African American vote could be severely split during the primary, thereby canceling out any chance of a Black candidate winning the race. At the moment, Braun is considered a front runner in that crowded Black field, already getting endorsements and operational support from Congressman Bobby Rush (D-IL).
Burris could become the 20th candidate in the Chicago Mayoral race.
In other developments, former White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel is facing problems with his campaign as there are legal challenges claiming he does not meet residency eligibility requirements. Reports Chris Cilliza in The Washington Post:
But even before Emanuel contends with his rivals on the ballot, he’ll have to overcome another hurdle: a dispute over his residency.
Election law attorney Burt Odelson, who also has served as an adviser to several of Emanuel’s opponents in the race, is planning to file a legal challenge with the Chicago Board of Elections as early as tomorrow arguing that Emanuel does not meet Illinois’ residency requirement for candidates running for municipal office.
According to the state’s municipal code, any candidate for municipal office is required to be a resident of the municipality for one year prior to the election. The Chicago mayoral race is slated to take place on Feb. 22, 2011, meaning that candidates would need to have been resident in Chicago since Feb. 22, 2010. (Worth noting: if no candidate receives more than 50 percent of the vote, the top two vote-getters will proceed to a runoff on April 5, 2011.)