Danny DavisTwo-time mayoral candidate and congressman Danny Davis, who criticized black Rahm voters during the campaign, took a more mellow look when he called me yesterday from his office in Washington. “Life is alright with me,” he said.

His tone was far different the weekend before the mayoral race when he recorded an ad for Carol Moseley Braun: “My father would tell us that the Bible says any man who will not support his own house is worse than any infidel.”

Davis also said that the mayoral bug he caught last year is gone for good. [He also ran in 1991 (against Rich Daley) and lost by a 2-1 margin.] He was in the thick of the race this time until New Year’s Eve, when he dropped out and threw his support to Moseley Braun. The deciding factor for him, he said, was the call he received—he won’t say from whom—telling him that African-American business leaders planned to raise $2 million, but they’d be directing that money to Moseley Braun. Here, some highlights of our conversation:

CF: Any regrets about leaving the race and throwing your support to Moseley Braun?
I regret that the environment was not created where there was one substantial candidate. [Moseley Braun] made some mistakes, and it wasn’t the best run campaign I’ve ever seen.

CF: Examples?
I think there were two critical points: one was the comment in terms releasing the income tax returns. [Moseley Braun said, at first, that she wouldn’t release the documents because “I don’t want to"], and, of course, the comment regarding [Patricia] Watkins. [Moseley Braun accused Watkins of being a crack addict].  

CF: Why did Moseley Braun seem to melt down like that?
She had been irritated… and just responded form the hip. I guess you could say she had been goaded not only in this one setting, but goaded, period. She was probably just responding to people suggesting that she had not accomplished much, when she was actively engaged as Recorder of Deeds, state senator—very much on the charts.

CF: Do you expect she’ll run for another elective office?
I’m not expecting to look up and see her running for anything.

CF: Has Rahm called you since winning the mayor’s race?
I have not spoken to Rahm, although I have made some attempts. I will find him in next day or two. I have spoken about him on radio, television, to reporters, to wish him well—and pledged to provide all of the support, resources from the federal government that will help the city of Chicago.

CF: Were you friendly when he was in Congress?
I’ve always respected Rahm in terms of intellect…. We weren’t running buddies. 

CF: If a younger person asked you for advice about running, what would you tell him or her? 
I tell young people that the best time to run is when you don’t have an incumbent. If you’re running against an incumbent, it’s upstream.

CF: You’ve represented the 7th District since 1997. Any plans to retire from Congress?
No plans. I’ll be running for reelection [in 2012]. I have a couple of voice messages that I save and listen to all the time, from individuals expressing thanks for something I accomplished. They are inspirational to me. When I get any kind of down feeling, thinking I might want to quit, I play them. One is from a Chicago lady, not in my district, whose daughter was accused of murder. She kept calling until I agreed to meet with her. I tried to help her and I did. The other person, also a Chicagoan but not in my district, needed help in starting a business.

CF: I had a conversation yesterday with Hermene Hartman [publisher and editor in chief of N’DIGO who endorsed Rahm] and she argued that the African-American community had better start to look at younger candidates—at a new generation. You’re 69, and some people said you were too old to run for mayor.
Well, let me put it this way. I don’t know where people get this age bullshit. Look at Congress and certainly there are lots of people here who are well into their 70s. I think people were intentionally lying. I heard people saying about me that they couldn’t vote for somebody in his mid-70s. I am 69. I guarantee I have as much energy as any construction worker, as any bulldozer driver. I work seven days a week, 12 or 15 hours a day. I think my mental faculties are just as good as 20 years ago. I don’t recall lapses of any kind. Newt Gingrich is getting ready to run for President, he’s 67. I don’t think Newt Gingrich is too old.


Photograph: Chicago Tribune