Danny Davis (left) and Gery Chico
After today, it’ll be all mayoral politics all the time. Why wait?
I spoke yesterday to Democratic Congressman Danny Davis and lawyer Gery Chico, both of whom have eyes on the Fifth Floor of City Hall—and both of whom are warily circling each other.
Last week, Davis said to community newspaper AustinTalks that neither Hispanic mayoral hopeful, Chico nor City Clerk Miguel del Valle, can win. Davis went so far as to compare Del Valle and Chico to serial losing candidate William “Dock” Walls.
Chico told me on Monday that he is “surprised and disappointed” by Davis’s comment. Asked about his relationship to Davis, Chico replied, “I know him,” and left it at that.
In talking to me yesterday, Davis had sweeter things to say about Chico—“a very intelligent, astute, engaged, involved professional” who knows public service and politics “as well as anybody around.” Still, Davis said, “I think [Chico] will have a difficult time winning the election.”
Davis, 69, an African-American, has represented the 7th District since 1997; before that, he was a Cook County commissioner and a city alderman. For years he has seemed to want to shed his job as congressman, but he has never quite found the right new gig.
Chico, 54—who has worked as chief of staff for Rich Daley, as well as president of Chicago Public Schools—is half Mexican (his mother was Lithuanian and Greek). Most recently the chairman of the City Colleges board, Chico strongly identifies with his Hispanic roots while promoting himself as a candidate for the city.
Still, Davis told me Chico simply doesn’t have a wide enough base. The congressman might have a point: Hispanics make up one quarter of Chicago’s population, but because the demographic group is young and because some of its members are not American citizens, it totals just 15 percent of the city’s registered voters.
Chico attributes Davis’s comment to the congressman’s bitterness at not being selected by the Coalition for Mayor—a group of black politicians, pastors, lawyers, and other leaders—that has been trying to select a consensus candidate. On Friday night, the Coalition seemed to settle on former U.S. Senator Carol Moseley Braun and Cook County Board of Review Commissioner Larry Rodgers.
Not so fast, says Davis, who still hopes to be endorsed. He told me that “some people wanted to have another interview with myself and Reverend [James] Meeks, and I understand that that interview is supposed to be taking place next Friday night [November 5th].”
Davis says he hasn’t decided whether to run yet, but he hopes he’ll end up being the coalition pick. He added that he won’t run if he’s not endorsed, and that a black candidate lacking the coalition support “wouldn’t have much of a chance—and that, really, is all I was saying about Miguel and Gery. Any of us would have a difficult time unless we’ve got the coalition-based support.”
Chico told me his supporters are “raising millions.” While he declined to name any of his financial backers, he said, “most of the money is local—people from all over the city and metropolitan area.”
“Local” might be a dig at Rahm Emanuel, who will be spending Thursday in Beverly Hills collecting contributions from Hollywood moguls.
Asked about calculations that Lisa Madigan will jump in the race if Pat Quinn wins today (and likely forecloses a Madigan run for governor in 2014), Chico says, “I don’t care one way or the other. I take the mayoral election a lot more seriously than hedging the conditions of other people. I think this is about personal commitment, not about political ambition or calculation.”
On the subject of Rahm, Davis mentions their “very good” pre-recess meeting in Washington before Rahm left his White House spot. Asked if he and Emanuel have a close relationship, Davis says, “We’re not running buddies, but we respect each other.”
The congressman, who will sail to re-election today, says he’ll make his decision on running “probably” by next week.
Photography: Chicago Tribune