Retired Hyde Park doctor and activist Quentin Young, who is well known for his efforts in advocating for single-payer health care, has taken the role of co-chair in City Clerk Miguel del Valle’s mayoral campaign. The 87-year-old former internist told me in an interview Monday that he believes del Valle and Rahm Emanuel will take the top two spots on February 22nd—and “Miguel will beat Rahm in the April 5th runoff."

Wishful thinking? Young, who was chairman of medicine at Cook County Hospital for a decade and had a private practice for 61 years—he counted Martin Luther King as a patient—is nothing if not an idealist. He volunteers as national coordinator for the Physicians for National Health Program, and longs for the days when his hero, Harold Washington, “the most rounded, elegant politician I’ve ever known,” was mayor. Young supported Barack Obama in the 2008 campaign but now is bitterly disappointed with president—placing a hefty share of blame on Emanuel, whom he calls “a fixer” and “in no small part the cause of President Obama’s hardship.” 

Here, some highlights of our conversation

Q: What do you like about del Valle?
He’s atypically straight-laced, clean, effective and committed for a Chicago pol. None of the other candidates come close to Miguel for leadership both in the legislature [he was a state senator for 23 years] and as City Clerk. He hasn’t gotten rich; he doesn’t give favors. He was an early supporter of [Harold] Washington, and I think you can see in his style and politics—what Washington tried to do for the city.

Q: How does del Valle, who polled at three  percent in the last poll, get from here to there?
Obviously a good deal depends on whether Rahm Emanuel stays on the ballot. I rather think he will. I don’t support him. I don’t like his leadership style, but having said that, I’m not enthusiastic about disqualifying him. I think after the squabble over Rahm’s residency, Miguel could emerge as the most attractive of the non-Emanuel candidates.

Q: What about Gery Chico?
I think Chico and Rahm represent the traditional machine politics.

Q: During the residency hearing, Rahm seemed so calm, so polite.
While Rahm conducted himself impressively, I don’t think he can withstand the give-and-take of the primary race. I think the part of him that I find politically unattractive—the boss mentality, "take no prisoners" attitude, will emerge.

Q: If del Valle doesn’t make the runoff, who’s your second choice?
Oh, there’s no question, of that batch, Danny Davis is the preferred candidate. The others don’t have the track record that Danny has over the decades as a progressive candidate.

Q: Should he become mayor, Rahm has not committed to sending his children—now attending private schools in Washington—to the Chicago Public Schools. Do you think that should be an issue? [Young, a graduate of Hyde Park High, attended—and also sent his children to—public schools.]
Emphatically so. It should be an issue. You’re running a city where the overwhelming majority goes to public schools. I don’t know if Emanuel is going to put his kids in private schools, but if he does, that’s another reason to vote for his opponent. [Del Valle is a graduate of Tuley High and sent his children to the public schools.]

Q: So what’s wrong with the new national healthcare plan? 
It won’t solve any problems. Costs have risen since it passed and will continue to do so. Having a bill that squeaked through puts a break on serious reform. [Young blames Emanuel, “a powerful mobilizer of the Democratic vote,”  for the three-vote margin in the House].

Q: Would you have been happier had no bill passed?
Yes, it  would be better to have a clean slate.

Q: Will you support a challenge to Obama in the 2012 primary?
I certainly don’t support his recent politics. I’m not canvassing for a replacement, but I think candidates can do much better than he. He hasn’t gotten a single concession no matter how much he concedes. Obama] will have to make a really strong move toward progressive solutions rather than trying to chase the right wing idiocy that characterizes the other party.