Keeping with his penchant for polemic flare and independent style, the Rev. State Sen. James Meeks abruptly pulled out of his quixotic bid for Mayor of Chicago. The move comes after a confluence of events pulled the firebrand Illinois state legislator into the hot burn of a spotlight, something he is no stranger to. And it happened less than two months away from what was once considered a caustic Democratic primary on February 22, 2011, but is now pretty much dissolving into a one man race named Rahm Emanuel.
Meeks dismantled his campaign as soon as he announced it, with his spokesman directing all media inquiries to the Salem Baptist Church of Chicago where he is Senior Pastor. Upon contact, church spokeswoman Tasha Harris refused direct comment on the matter, only pointing to a statement that hasn’t been posted on a website static since the last policy pitch on December 15. There’s the feeling this had been a few weeks in the planning. “He’s not making any more public comments on this,” Harris responded.
What he did say in pre-holiday resignation comments, however, presents a series of fairly loaded questions and scenarios. Meeks, a joint chairman of the Illinois Black Legislative Caucus and a longtime city activist, contends the Black candidate field is too crowded. “Our house is divided,” argued Meeks, urging the four other African American candidates in the race to drop out. “I have met with each of the four other African-American candidates and urged them in the strongest terms to consider withdrawing from the race in the interest of unity and for the greater good of our community.”
There is considerable worry within the Chi-town Black political machine that it has not yet settled on a consensus candidate, a tall order for a community full of professional politicians in perennial search of glory. The argument is that too many Black candidates will pull the Midwestern Gotham’s Black vote in too many different directions, thereby cancelling out any chance of the first African American mayor since Harold Washington. But, few want to talk about recent polling numbers which showed all candidates, including Meeks, barely registering on the political Richter scale: Meeks was polling at 7%; former Ambassador and U.S. Senator Carol Moseley-Braun was scratching heels at 6%; Congressman Danny Davis is at 9%. Few want to say that it’s not so much failure to find a consensus candidate as it is to find a youthful, energetic Black charismatic candidate with the same charm and magnetism as the former political son of the Windy City now President of the United States.
Former White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel is barreling ahead at 32%. He won’t have to look back.
Politically, Meeks had little to lose by pulling out. The timing of it is impeccable: Meeks’ withdrawal came a good day after Emanuel’s go-ahead from the city’s electoral commission after a distracting residency requirement battle.
The move seems connected to Emanuel’s political fate and twist of fortunes with a leading Black voice in Chicago calling on everyone to pull out to make space for Emanuel. Questions arise: Did Meeks make a deal? Is Emanuel chipping away at Chicago’s Black political apparatus since the classic get-him-on-a-technicality move didn’t work? Or, did the inevitable (or something/someone else) stare Meeks’ down once he failed to back away from recent, controversial comments about minority contractors and scheming White businesses stealing city set-aside procurements?
Davis and Braun, at the moment, refuse to pull out despite Meeks’ gestures. But, with former President Bill Clinton expected to campaign for Emanuel in the next month, their political visions of Mayoral grandeur will soon fade to Black.