Carol Felsenthal
On politics

Danny Davis Gets Chosen—Finally

The Chicago Coalition for Mayor, a group of African-American businesspeople, elected officials, and activists, seems to have jilted Cook County Board of Review Commissioner Larry Rogers and former U.S. Sen. Carol Moseley Braun—the African-American mayoral hopefuls that the group selected a bit more than a week ago as the two who had the best chance to win. What a difference a week makes…

The Chicago Coalition for Mayor, a group of African-American businesspeople, elected officials, and activists, seems to have jilted Cook County Board of Review Commissioner Larry Rogers and former U.S. Sen. Carol Moseley Braun—the African-American mayoral hopefuls that the group selected a bit more than a week ago as the two who had the best chance to win.

What a difference a week makes.

When I talked to Congressman Danny Davis on November 1st, he said that he had asked the group to give him another chance to make his case; it agreed and interviewed him and the Rev. James Meeks again Friday night.

By Saturday, the news was out. Davis, the 69-year-old U.S. Congressman representing the Seventh District since 1997, was the group’s consensus candidate. As reported in Clout Street, the Chicago Tribune’s local politics blog, Braun apparently had been out of public service too long and must have struck the group as rusty, and Rogers was not ready.

Approached by a reporter on Saturday as she opened her campaign office in Bronzeville, Braun seemed caught unawares. She said she still plans to run, and she quipped to the Chicago Sun-Times, “Maybe next week, they’ll choose me again.” (I haven’t yet spotted a comment from Rogers.)

Davis, who has lived on Chicago’s West Side since arriving in Chicago in 1961, talked to me Sunday morning he stood on his front porch. He sounded upbeat. He had just won reelection to his eighth congressional term—by his usual lopsided margin (about 81 percent; his lowest margin ever but hardly a nail biter)—against Republican Mark Weiman. Life is good for the native of Parkdale, Arkansas, who grew up on a cotton farm.

With the Republicans’ takeover of the House and less punch to his perch on the House Ways and Means Committee—yes, Davis says, he will support Nancy Pelosi as Minority Leader—it seems like a good time for the congressman to move on. Here’s what he told me:

CF: Are you running?
DD:
Yes, I am.

CF: Will you give up your congressional seat?
DD:
If I . . . win, I would resign. I don’t have to give up my congressional seat to run for Mayor and I won’t.

CF: Do you have favorites to succeed you in Congress should you move to the mayor’s job?
DD:
There are a number of state representatives and senators who are excellent people. [Beyond that, he refused to name names.]

CF: When will you officially announce?
DD:
By the end of the week.

CF: What were some of the questions the Coalition for Mayor asked you when you met with them Friday night?
DD:
I was questioned on the public schools.

CF: If you were mayor would you bring in a schools CEO, such as the about-to-depart Ron Huberman?
DD:
I would want a professional educator, . . . someone who would favor a strong participatory role for parents and communities to shape and implement school policy. . . . A person who could work well with teachers and teachers unions.

CF: Would you bring back [former school superintendent] Paul Vallas? [His brother, Dean Vallas, is a senior adviser to announced mayoral candidate Gery Chico.]
DD:
I like Paul Vallas. I certainly would consider him. When he was running the schools he did a great deal to improve education. . . . When he left Chicago, two other school districts gobbled him up. I worked very closely with him. . . . I had him in my home to discuss education policy.

CF: Did your children go to public schools?
DD:
Yes, both elementary and high school. [Davis has two sons; Jonathan, 47, and Stacey, 40.] My wife and I met because we were teaching at the same public school here. She took early retirement from the George W. Collins High School [where she taught business] shortly after I was elected to Congress.

CF: What does your wife think about your running?
DD:
She is supportive. I wouldn’t think she was necessarily looking for me to run, but she said, ‘Well, if that’s what you need to do.’ She’s involved with the NAACP [former president of the Westside NAACP], her church, and [her] sorority. . . . I think she assumed we’d do more traveling as opposed to campaigning.

CF: So you’ll remain in Congress, often in Washington; how will you be able to campaign as mayor?
DD:
I’m back here every weekend; I’ll have plenty of time to campaign.

CF: You’ll be running against your former House colleague Rahm Emanuel. Are you looking forward to that?
DD:
I don’t view myself as running against someone else. I view myself as running for the office. I have a tendency to campaign positively and campaign on issues, not try to tear someone else down.

CF: Do you think the question of Rahm Emanuel’s residency is a real issue?
DD:
There are a lot of attorneys who are supposed to be experts. Some of them say residency is a real problem.

CF: Is Carol Moseley Braun going to stay in now that you got the Coalition’s endorsement?
DD:
I haven’t asked her. She is a friend; I was co-chairman of her 1992 campaign for the U.S. Senate.

CF: You ran for mayor against Rich Daley in 1991 and lost to him by a 2-1 margin. What will you do differently this time?
DD:
The last time I ran was during the Persian Gulf War. It was very difficult to get people to focus on a local political race. Everyone was glued to their TVs.

CF: Will the Daleys—Rich, Bill, John—support you?
DD:
I speak often to John. I served with John on the Cook County Board [from 1990 to 1996]. The Mayor indicated that he is not going to be involved.

CF: Will you have your petitions ready by the deadline of November 22nd?
DD:
Oh, yes. We need 12,500. I think we’ll have three times that number.

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