LeAlan JonesHermene Hartman, publisher and editor in chief of N’DIGO, angered some members of her African-American community when she endorsed Rahm Emanuel over Carol Moseley Braun. She told me recently that the black political/business/religious leaders who selected Moseley Braun as the consensus candidate—and so saddled their community with a dud (she came in fourth and failed to win a single ward)—had better move aside, or, at least, rethink their strategy.
“We are not training people to run for office,” she laments. Her case in point: LeAlan Jones, 31, who, she says, made the boneheaded decision to start at the top by running as the Green Party candidate for the U.S. Senate in 2010, winning just three percent of the vote.
That, says Hartman, was a blunder for Jones, a promising young man celebrated in the ‘90s for a radio documentary he and a friend made when Jones was just 13—a show called Ghetto Life 101, about life in the neighborhood surrounding the Ida B. Wells public housing complex.
“He’s as smart as he can be,” Hartman says of Jones, who worked for her on and off for seven years. “He’s not scared to do anything.” She recalls assigning Jones to write about the economy; he interviewed Warren Buffett.
As smart as Jones is, adds Hartman, he was not smart about running for office. “Why don’t you sit down and think about a strategy?” she asked him. “Why don’t you study Barack Obama? He had a plan. He wasn’t jumping up to run for anything that popped up in front of him. He was running for what he could win. Start with the state Senate, or an aldermanic seat. You don’t walk into a company and say, `I’m an intern, and I’m applying to be President.’”
Jones has accepted her advice. He told me in a telephone conversation Sunday evening that while he doesn’t regret running for the U.S. Senate—he said he got statewide name recognition that would have cost him millions in advertising to replicate—his next race will be for a seat in the Illinois House. He is angling to be appointed to the 26th District seat now occupied by Will Burns, who won the 4th Ward aldermanic race—the seat held by Toni Preckwinkle. Burns will resign his seat on May 16th. The Democratic committeemen—one of them Preckwinkle, now President of the Cook County Board—will decide who serves out the rest of Burns’ term. If Jones doesn’t get the 26th District appointment—he acknowledges “residency issues” since he currently lives in the 31st District—he says he will start planning for 2012. He’ll run in the 31st District against Rep. Mary Flowers, 59, a member of the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus.
Photograph: Chicago Tribune