In February 2011, Chicago will experience its first open-seat mayoral election in more than 60 years. Over the weekend, several contenders for the mayor's office officially announced their bids, including two of the leading Black candidates who are diametrically opposed on LGBT rights.
West Side Congressman Danny Davis and State Sen. James T. Meeks, the outspoken and anti-gay South Side pastor of one of the city's largest mega-churches, each declared at Sunday rallies they would represent all areas of the city if elected. The close timing of the announcements highlights the historic rivalry between political factions representing those sections of the city, notes the Sun Times.
Davis, soundly beaten in the 1991 Democratic mayoral primary by Daley but overwhelmingly re-elected to his eighth congressional term representing the West Side earlier this month, was selected as the "consensus candidate" by the Chicago Coalition for Mayor, a coalition of African-American politicians, religious and community leaders. The group had considered backing either Braun or Board of Review Commissioner Larry Rogers, but eventually threw its support behind Davis.
Eddie Read, one of the leaders of the coalition, said after the meeting that Meeks had promised to drop out of the race if he was not selected by the coalition, though Braun and William "Dock" Walls had not made any such commitment, Read said. Meeks denied he had promised to drop out. "That's not true," Meeks said Sunday afternoon. "I always told the group that it was contingent upon who was elected. I also told the group that it was taking too long. I never said I would step out if I wasn't elected." Read urged Meeks, Braun and Walls to drop out of the race for the sake of black unity and rejected criticisms that the selection process took too long, allowing Emanuel to build up an early advantage.
Meeks reportedly did not make the cut because he plans to continue to pastor his 22,000 member anti-gay mega-church if elected mayor. Meeks also announced his candidacy Sunday and was introduced by former Illinois Republican Chairman Andy McKenna.
Davis joins an already crowded field including Rahm Emanuel, President Obama's former chief of staff, who announced his candidacy Saturday; Gery Chico, a lawyer and former City Colleges chief, and City Clerk Miguel del Valle. Former U.S. Sen. Carol Moseley Braun says she will officially kick off her bid Nov. 20.
Davis is a veteran progressive in Chicago politics. Davis scores 100% by the Human Rights Campaign on gay rights issues. Davis opposes the Defense of Marriage Act, "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" and supports marriage equality and the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. Davis endorsed and spoke at the National Equality March in October 2009.
In contrast: As chairman of the Illinois General Assembly's Black Caucus, Meeks has been "one of the most influential foes of legislation proposed by gay rights activists." Meeks, who has been criticized for calling homosexuality "an evil sickness", opposed Illinois' LGBT non-discrimination leislation and was the only African American in the Illinois Senate and House to vote against the bill.