The Magazine

The Rahmbomb

And other Chicago players

Feb 21, 2011, Vol. 16, No. 22 • By JOSEPH EPSTEIN
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Instead, it’s hard to find a mistake Moseley Braun didn’t make when a senator. She paid a gentleman friend campaign manager $15,000 monthly out of campaign funds; she several times visited and supported a Nigerian dictator (Sani Abacha) who was executing dissidents; and she lost a reelection campaign to a weak Republican candidate named Peter Fitzgerald after being accused of various improprieties, among them abusing Medicaid for her ill mother, misappropriating campaign funds, comparing George Will to a Ku Klux Klansman, and other fine deeds. “Most imprudent,” said a friend of mine, who was one of Moseley Braun’s teachers at the University of Chicago Law School, “especially for a hack.” 

If Carol Moseley Braun was wretched in office, she’s an even worse campaigner. She claims that she’s the one to break the city’s horrendous parking contract, which everyone else agrees is ironclad, with no word about where the billion dollars to repay the private vendor is to come from; she claimed to have advanced degrees from Harvard (oops​—​she doesn’t); she blamed Rahm Emanuel, the front-runner in the mayoral campaign, for cutting and running after helping Barack Obama engineer the greatest midterm election debacle in history. 

After being defeated for reelection to the Senate, Moseley Braun, when asked if she would seek political office again, told the press, “Read my lips. Not. Never. Nein. Nyet.” Of her 1990 campaign, she said: “If I lose I’m going to retire from politics, practice law, and wear bright leather pants.” A case, apparently, of growing too big for those britches. With a mournful looking Jesse Jackson hovering behind her as she makes her sometimes inchoate announcements to the press, Moseley Braun is running a campaign purely about race. Still, it is always amusing to see Jesse Jackson on yet another losing horse, crying, no doubt, wildfire.

Miguel del Valle, currently the city clerk, was the first candidate to announce for mayor when Richie Daley decided not to run. His early start has not helped him in any obvious way; so far as I know, no poll has shown him with more than 8 percent of the vote, and many with less. A professional politician​—​he was in the Illinois state senate for two decades​—​del Valle is a less than inspiring candidate: You have to imagine a Puerto Rican Mr. Peepers. He is for all the standard things: better schools, less crime, more transparency. (Will we ever again have a candidate who is happy with the current opacity?) And yet one feels that he speaks from the heart when he talks about the poor in Chicago feeling oppressed by their government. And it is true that a Chicagoan without clout or money is increasingly caught between the greed of the politicians and the rigid stupidity of the bureaucrats. 

Gery Chico, son of a Mexican-American father and a Greek-Lithuanian mother and the candidate closest on the trail of Rahm Emanuel, has been politician and bureaucrat both. He has been president of Chicago Public Schools, president of the Chicago Park District, chairman of Chicago City Colleges, and from 1992 to 1995 was Richie Daley’s chief of staff. His campaign has been chiefly about attacking Rahm Emanuel’s ideas on tax cuts, but without great success. Chico is a political insider, with a law firm in which several members are registered as city hall lobbyists. The aldermen, one feels confident, could live very comfortably with him. And why not? Gery Chico is a company man in a company town.

Here, perhaps, we come to the crux of the matter. Rahm Emanuel, though scarcely an outsider to politics, may be too large a figure for the Chicago aldermen. For a good while there has been whispering that the aldermen, chief among them a Southwest side figure named Edward Burke, have been behind the move to disqualify Emanuel from the mayoral race owing to his not meeting the residency requirement. Ed Burke, Irish, from a political family, wearing bespoke suits and fancying hundred-dollar haircuts and designer glasses, has been on the Chicago City Council since shortly after the reign of Julian the Apostate. Burke’s candidate in the mayoral election​—​no surprise here​—​is Gery Chico.


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