By Erick Johnson
The gloves are on heavyweight mayoral candidate Toni Preckwinkle, who aims to deliver a knockout to several Black opponents, including Cook County Circuit Court Clerk Dorothy Brown. The mayoral elections are just under two months away, but Preckwinkle and businessman Willie Wilson have come out swinging to eliminate opponents before the bell rings for city elections on February 26, 2019.
The challenge round has officially begun. Preckwinkle and other candidates filed objections that would require the Chicago Board of Elections to closely examine thousands of signatures their opponents obtained to get their names on the election ballot. The list of challenges is out and candidates have racked up a total of 195 objections for the city elections. Sixteen of those objections are in the race for mayor. Some 82 objections came from candidates in aldermanic races in the city’s predominately Black wards. Many objections in mayoral and aldermanic races have multiple objectors.
In a breakdown of the objections in the aldermanic race in Black wards, the 20th ward had the highest number of objections with 17 challenges filed. The wards of Alderman Michelle Harris (8th Ward) and Alderman Howard Brookins (21st Ward) are tied for second with eight objections. Brookins and Alderman Toni Foulkes are the only incumbent Black aldermen whose petition signatures drew objections from their opponents.
One of the most contentious parts of the race for mayor is underway. But in Chicago’s Black community, the fight may get even bloodier with 11 Black mayoral candidates vying to win the Black vote. Out of that number, seven drew challenges to have their petition signatures examined to see if they are valid or even forged. The challenge round for next year’s election is so intense that the Chicago Board of Elections added nine hours to the schedule for candidates to examine their opponents’ petition signatures.
It’s the reason why mayoral candidates obtain double or triple the amount of the required 12,500 signatures (candidates for alderman are required to submit 473 signatures). The more signatures, the higher the chances are for candidates to survive the challenge round.
With just 25,000 signatures each, political analysts say Brown and Illinois Comptroller Susana Mendoza are vulnerable to not making the ballot on election day.
In addition to Brown, Black mayoral candidates include educator Roger L. Washington, activist Ja’Mal Green, Conrien Hykes Clark, former Police Board President Lori Lightfoot, businessman Neal Sales-Griffin and State Representative LaShawn Ford all drew objections to their petitions.
They are being challenged by Preckwinkle and Wilson, both of whom need the Black vote for a chance to defeat a total of 21 mayoral contenders in the race.
Preckwinkle, whose 60,000 signatures did not draw any challenges, filed objections to challenge the petitions three Black candidates. They include Brown, Lightfoot and Clark. Brown and Lightfoot pose the biggest threat to Preckwinkle’s chances of winning the Black vote. Despite having 62,000 signatures another Black mayoral candidate, Amara Enia, did not draw any challenges from Preckwinkle or Wilson.
Many of the objectors in the mayoral and aldermanic races are not candidates themselves, but hired staff who do the dirty work while keeping candidates out of scrutiny.
As part of their campaigns, Preckwinkle and Brown are campaigning for votes in Chicago’s Black churches. Preckwinkle last month received an endorsement from a handful of Chicago’s Black clergy and Brown historically has been re-elected as Cook County Circuit Court Clerk with the large support of Black-church going voters.
Wilson’s campaign manager, former State Senator Rickey Hendon, filed challenges against Brown, as well as Ford, Green, Sales-Griffin and Roger Washington.
The objections prompted Washington to send out a tweet that said, “WHY CHALLENGE YOUR BROTHERS?”
Hendon told the Sun Times that he filed the challenges against Wilson’s wishes, because Wilson does not believe in removing opponents from the ballot.
But Green called a news conference after he took offense to Hendon’s string of objections and said he recorded Hendon threatening to knock off all the Black candidates.
“I’m not knocking off all the Blacks, just selective ones like Ja’Mal Green,” responded Hendon, who called Green a “rat snitch fink” for secretly recording their conversation.
This article originally appeared in the Chicago Crusader.