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    Send your questions about campaigns and elections.
    Mayoral Madness in
    Chicago and Memphis

    By Ken Rudin
    Special to
    Wednesday, December 23, 1998

    Question: Does Congressman Bobby Rush have a chance at beating Chicago Mayor Richard Daley in the Feb. 23 election? If Rush gets an incredible turnout among African-Americans (as Carol Moseley-Braun did), could he pull off the upset? What percentage of Chicago is African-American? – Tim Alexander, Omaha, Neb.

    Answer: Rush, an African-American congressman in a city that is 40 percent black, has an uphill task. Daley remains popular after nearly 10 years in office and has oodles of money.

    Harold Washington, Chicago's first elected black mayor.
    (Collection of Ken Rudin)
    Rush, a deputy defense minister of the Black Panthers in the late 1960s, is hoping to follow in the footsteps of the late Harold Washington and become the city's second elected black mayor. Washington, who once held the same congressional seat Rush now holds, served as Chicago mayor from 1983 until his death four years later. Rush has two problems facing him. When Washington ran for mayor in '83, he benefited from the deep personal animosity between Mayor Jane Byrne and then-State's Attorney Daley, who split the white vote in the primary, leading to Washington's victory. When Washington died after his 1987 reelection, the coalition that elected him began to fragment. Daley took advantage of the situation, winning the special election in 1989.

    Since then, Daley, unlike Jane Byrne, has proven to be an enormously popular mayor, breezing through two subsequent campaigns against various black challengers. A Chicago Tribune poll last month showed Daley with a favorable rating from 68 percent of black voters. And there is no other white candidate this time to split the white vote with Daley, which would appear to be Rush's best hope. The Daley camp has already filed some 207,000 nominating petitions – a staggering eight times the number required to get on the ballot.

    It's hard to make the case that Rush has much of a chance. But he is going all out, accusing the Daley administration of corruption, police harassment and favoring the business community to the exclusion of poor neighborhoods. He is also hitting the mayor for refusing to debate him, a charge that has been echoed by the media. Rush has secured the endorsement of Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D), who may be plotting his own mayoral bid one day.

    Question: What's your insight into the political fortunes of Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton? I've heard that the Ford family – Harold Sr., who retired from the House a few years ago, and Harold Jr., who now holds his seat – is working to defeat him. – B. Hardaway, Memphis, Tenn.

    Answer: It is fair to say there is no love lost between Mayor Herenton and the senior Mr. Ford. These two politicians have been battling each other over who should run Memphis for quite some time.

    When Herenton made his successful bid to become Memphis' first African-American mayor in 1991, Ford, who is also black, backed another candidate. When Ford was leaving Congress in 1996, Mayor Herenton campaigned hard &150; and unsuccessfully – to block Ford's then-26-year old son from winning the seat. Now, with Herenton seeking a third term as mayor, Ford Sr. is threatening to stop him – either by running himself or putting his potent organization behind someone else.

    Herenton has raised a half-million dollars thus far, knowing that while he won't be able to scare Ford Sr. away, a massive war chest might give him pause. Nobody seems to have a clue as to what Ford will eventually do, but if he enters the race against Herenton, it will polarize the campaign. Blacks will likely coalesce around Ford, and whites will do everything they can to keep Ford out of the mayor's office. Mayor Herenton might be favored in a one-on-one contest, but should a white candidate get into the race, all bets are off.

    As for Ford Jr....

    Question: What are the prospects of restoring an African-American member to the Senate in 2000? Moseley-Braun's defeat this year in Illinois leaves the chamber all white. I know that New York Comptroller Carl McCall (D) and Detroit Mayor Dennis Archer (D) are considering 2000 bids, but are there any other prominent African-American pols who may run for the Senate in two years? – Stan Ward, Columbia, Md.

    Answer: McCall seems poised to run for the seat being vacated by four-term New York Democrat Daniel Patrick Moynihan, while Democratic leaders in Michigan are hoping Archer will take on Sen. Spencer Abraham (R).

    Only one other black has been mentioned as a potential Senate candidate: Rep. Harold Ford Jr. (D), just reelected to his second term, is being pushed to challenge Sen. Bill Frist (R) in Tennessee. He has been making a good impression, with reasoned, moderate rhetoric, and some see him as a dream candidate. But the guess here is that he will stay in the House a bit longer before looking to make a statewide bid.

    A campaign pin for the 1924 GOP ticket.
    (Collection of Ken Rudin)
    Question: I know that a vice president wrote the music for the perennial hit, "It's All In the Game," but I can't remember who. I think it was either Charles Dawes or Charles Curtis. – M.J. Rosenberg, Chevy Chase, Md.

    Answer: It's been sung by everyone from Dinah Shore to the Four Tops to Van Morrison, and the words were written by Carl Sigman in 1951. But the music itself was composed by Charles Dawes as "Melody in A Major" in 1912. Dawes later served as vice president under Calvin Coolidge from 1925 to 1929. During his tenure, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his 1924 report on German reparations.

    Got a question? Ask Ken Rudin:

    Ken Rudin is the political editor at NPR and a former editor of the Hotline. He is also the creator of's ScuttleButton contest.

    © Copyright 1998 Ken Rudin

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