Carol Felsenthal
On politics

Tom Carey, Adviser to Carol Moseley Braun, Weighs in on Her Campaign

Tom Carey, 56, has been working for candidates here—from Rich Daley to John Stroger—since he was 25. One day in January, the political strategist received a call from a local lawyer who was volunteering for Carol Moseley Braun. The man told Carey he would pick him up to take him to a meeting, but didn’t say with whom. Carey was soon in the Hyde Park home of Moseley Braun, talking politics with the woman who, at the time, was hoping for a runoff with Rahm Emanuel…

Tom Carey, 56, has been working for candidates here—from Rich Daley to John Stroger—since he was 25. One day in January, the political strategist received a call from a local lawyer who was volunteering for Carol Moseley Braun. The man told Carey he would pick him up to take him to a meeting, but didn’t say with whom. Carey was soon in the Hyde Park home of Moseley Braun, talking politics with the woman who, at the time, was hoping for a runoff with Rahm Emanuel. She finished fourth in the race, with about nine percent of the vote. Carey, who said his role in the campaign was “unofficial adviser” to Moseley Braun, spoke to me in a telephone interview on Monday. Below, highlights of our conversation

CF: Tell me about your meeting with her.
TC: I talked to her for two hours, and at the end she asked me if I could help her. We were just telling political stories back and forth. I made one pitch—you gotta get both black and white votes. It does no good to simply get black votes. As it turned out, she got neither. When I first agreed to help out they claimed their budget was $2 million. [This was the amount that black business leaders had promised the candidate]. They ended up raising only $400,000. You can have the nicest, shiniest car in the world; if you got no gas in it, you’re not going anywhere. If she had told me that night she would have only $400,000, I would have told her to get out of the race right now.

CF: Why didn’t the $2 million materialize?
TC:
Because people don’t give money to losers. Historically blacks have always backed the winner for mayor. The only time blacks did not back the winner was in 1989 when Gene Sawyer was running. Rahm had $12 million, which they respect. Rahm spent that money early, cut Carol’s poll numbers down, and [black leaders] said, “Wait, Carol can’t win this thing.” Blacks don’t give money on ideals. They’re very, very cut and dried. They want to back a winner.           

CF: I’ve heard rumors that President Obama called black business leaders and asked them to support Rahm, not Carol. I interviewed John Rogers, Jr. [head of Ariel Investments and Moseley Braun’s biggest financial backer] the other day and asked him if he received such a call from the President. He said absolutely not.
TC:
Rich Daley was making all the phone calls behind the scenes. Daley probably did a great job of blocking Carol getting the money.

CF: Do you know Daley was making calls?
TC: Of course. Do I know the sun’s going to rise tomorrow? It’s part of the game. [When asked to comment on Carey’s assertions, Daley’s press secretary, Jackie Heard, responded: “The idea of Mayor Daley taking the time to make a round of phone calls to somehow hurt a candidate is absurd. I’ve worked closely with him for nearly 15 years and have never known him to do such a thing. It is so ridiculous it causes you to wonder what the motivation for this kind of storytelling is.”]

CF: When was the last time you talked to Carol Moseley Braun? Does she plan another political race?
TC:
I called her today. She wants to sit down and talk to me. I think she’s perplexed about her role in public life. She wants to know how she stays politically alive. How can she come back? She wants to understand fully what happened—she doesn’t understand yet.

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