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If he wants to be Chicago's mayor, Rahm Emanuel faces uphill fight

To many Chicagoans, Rahm Emanuel seems too brash and has not connected with community leaders. His Washington connections mean little to constituents, whose support any mayoral candidate needs to win – namely, black and Latino voters.

By Staff writer / September 25, 2010

White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel listens to President Barack Obama give a press conference in the East Room of the White House in Washington on September 10.

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White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel will find it difficult to win support from Chicago’s black and Latino communities should he decide to run for mayor in the November primary, according to a Chicago Sun-Times report Saturday.

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Mr. Emanuel has not formally announced a candidacy. But on a national talk show earlier this year, he let slip that if Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley decided not to run for his seventh term, he would be interested in running for the office.

When Mayor Daley delivered a surprise announcement earlier this month that he was retiring following his current term, Emanuel’s name rose as someone who has the bankroll, name recognition, and ambition to become Daley’s successor.

While the national media is focusing on what Emanuel’s departure from the White House would mean for the November mid-term elections, however, his entry into Chicago political circles as a viable candidate is not necessarily assured.

To many here, he is considered too brash and one who has not made significant connections with community leaders. His Washington connections and finesse for maneuvering within the business community means little to constituents, whose support any mayoral candidate needs to win – namely, black and Latino voters from the city’s South and West sides.

“I've heard no one on the South Side saying, 'Oh, boy, I'm glad Rahm is running,'” 5th Ward alderman Freddrenna Lyle told the Sun-Times.

“Rahm isn't a friend of the Latino community … I am not a fan,” 22nd Ward alderman Ricardo Muñoz told the newspaper.

Emanuel’s disconnect with minority voters dates back to his experience as US Representative from Illinois’ 5th congressional district, which is on Chicago’s North Side and is predominantly white. Critics say as President Obama’s chief of staff, he shelved immigration reform and was not particularly interested in pushing civil rights.

Minority leaders here see the chance to fill the mayor’s office with a black or Latino candidate as a way to create common ground among all parts of the city, which they say did not happen during the Daley years.

So far, there are four potential Hispanic candidates organizing campaigns and at least three leaders from the black community, including former U.S. Sen. Carol Mosley-Braun and Illinois Sen. James Meeks.

The Sun-Times reports that a group of black politicians, ministers, and community leaders met Friday at a local ward office to discuss throwing their support behind a single candidate.

Should he run, Emanuel may face the greatest challenge from Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart. Sheriff Dart, who is white, is a South Side native and well-liked among minority leaders. He refused to evict homeowners facing foreclosures resulting from bad loans, and he successfully handled a scandal involving a historic black cemetery in the South Suburbs that included the desecration of at least 300 graves.

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