Chicago Sun-Times
The scoop from Washington

Jesse Jackson Jr. tells CNN Chicago mayor race referendum on Obama, Rahm Emanuel

| 1 Comment

CNN's John King interviewed Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.) on Thursday night, looking ahead to who will run for Chicago mayor now that Mayor Daley said he will not seek re-election next year. Both Jackson and his wife, Sandi, a Chicago alderman, are considering a run. Jackson fired a few warning shots to Emanuel--and President Obama.

Said Jackson, "If Rahm Emanuel does make the decision to run for mayor of the city of Chicago, it will become a national campaign. This will not be a local race run by local candidates just debating just local issues. It will be about urban policy. It will be about the president's agenda. He has served as chief of staff.

"The president's record will probably be brought into that campaign. And given that the president was a state senator in my Congressional district, he was a -- a U.S. senator from the state of Illinois, and he, for two years now, has a record that he has to run on, Rahm Emanuel will have to answer the questions about those communities that have been left behind."

Below, transcript...

KING: Do you want to be the next mayor of Chicago?

JACKSON: I've not made that judgment. It's an exciting time in the city of Chicago. Mayor Daley, for 21 years, was the mayor of an extraordinary city and has done an extraordinary job. There's a lot of work that remains to be done in the city of Chicago. A lot of names have been bantered about. The mayor's announcement has shocked the political establishment in Chicago and people are -- are obviously gearing up and looking forward to a spirited contest.

KING: Well, as you know, one of the names that has been speculated has been the White House chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel. You know him quite well. He said a long time ago that if Mayor Daley were to step aside, he would be very interested in the job.

This morning, he got what you could consider at least a quasi endorsement from a guy who I think is still pretty popular in the city of Chicago.

Let's listen to the president of the United States.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think he would be an excellent mayor. He is an excellent chief of staff. I think right now, as long as he is in the White House, he is critically focused in making sure that we're creating jobs for families around the country and rebuilding our economy. And, you know, the one thing I -- I've always been impressed with about Rahm is, is that when he has a job to do, he focuses on the job in front of him.

And so my expectation is he'd make a decision after these mid-term elections. He knows that we've got a lot of work to do.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: After the mid-term elections, but not too much time between those elections and when you'd have to get the petitions and the signature work done.

If Rahm Emanuel decides the answer is yes -- and most people who know him think that's where he's heading -- and he has the president of the United States behind him. He also has more than a million dollars -- about $1.2 million, "The Washington Post" reports, left over in House campaign accounts that he could conceivably transfer most, if not all, to run for mayor, can you beat him?

JACKSON: Well, again, I have not made that judgment. But suffice it to say if Rahm Emanuel does make the decision to run for mayor of the city of Chicago, it will become a national campaign. This will not be a local race run by local candidates just debating just local issues. It will be about urban policy. It will be about the president's agenda. He has served as chief of staff.

The president's record will probably be brought into that campaign. And given that the president was a state senator in my Congressional district, he was a -- a U.S. senator from the state of Illinois, and he, for two years now, has a record that he has to run on, Rahm Emanuel will have to answer the questions about those communities that have been left behind --

KING: And it seems to me --

JACKSON: -- the communities (INAUDIBLE) --

KING: -- what you're saying is that you have some significant issues with the president, and, by extension, Rahm Emanuel's urban policy.

JACKSON: Well, certainly he's going to be running on his two years as chief of staff. He'll be running on his record as congressman. But --

KING: What have they done wrong?

JACKSON: I'm sorry?

KING: What have they done wrong?

JACKSON: Well, there's significant unemployment that is challenging many of our cities. There's a $650 million deficit in the city of Chicago. Urban America is demanding an urban policy to put Americans back to work. The president is now proposing more tax breaks for small businesses, but the question is whether or not those tax breaks will put average, ordinary Americans to work.

The American people are not in the mood for more federal stimulus dollars coming into the cities. And yet, the opportunity presents itself, between November 2nd, after this -- after the mid-term elections and February to have a national debate about urban policy and what the administration should be doing to put Americans to work.

KING: I want to read you something that your colleague, Bobby Rush, a member of Congress from the Chicago area, said in a statement after Mayor Daley announced he would not seek reelection.

Bobby Rush said this: "I must admonish the media to end its coordinated commentary on who will be the next mayor of the city of Chicago. Whoever that person will be will have to come through my community and address my community and have an established record of working with my community on its many deep-seated problems, before anyone is deemed an imaginary frontrunner in this particular race."

Mr. Rush obviously, like you, Congressman Jackson, African-American.

Mr. Rush, I believe, is the last politician to defeat Barack Obama in an election, if my memory is correct.

What is he saying there to Rahm Emanuel and others?

JACKSON: Well, he's saying that there are communities that have been significantly left behind. Chicago is a tale of two cities. There is a growing downtown Chicago. It's expanding.

But there are some communities where there are 60 people for every one job. There is increased violence. The Olympics decided not to come to the city of Chicago for a reason. We're losing tourism. We're losing industries. We're losing dollars in the city of Chicago.

And so a broad-based, thoughtful conversation that includes a bottom-up conversation about rebuilding urban America will be front and center in the city of Chicago. And we don't want someone anointed from the outside who's not really served in Chicago or spent time in Chicago coming to Chicago and telling us how we will be governed.

KING: Rahm not spend much time in Chicago?

JACKSON: Well, Rahm, as a member of Congress, was the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. His job was helping House Democrats regain control of Congress, not much time in Chicago.

As chief of staff, he is a -- he's an outside Washington hand. He works in Washington.

And so he has the big money. He has the fame. He has the -- potentially, the charisma. And don't get me wrong, Rahm has tremendous strengths that he brings to the debate. But there are some profound weaknesses and many of them are very local.

This is an organization town and there will be a reaction.

KING: And let me ask you, lastly, to that point. There was an African-American mayor before Mayor Daley. And when Mayor Daley came in a while ago, he did not have the best relationships with the community. But by all accounts, he worked pretty hard at it -- not perfect, but he worked pretty hard at it.

Is there a feeling among African-Americans -- African-Americans in Chicago and particularly the African-American political community, of which you are a leading member of, that, you know what, we should have another African-American mayor in the city of Chicago?

JACKSON: I think the people of the city of Chicago want the mayor for all Chicagoans. They don't want the mayor who represents one side of Chicago. And to Mayor Daley's credit, he did an extraordinary job of coalition building, of bringing people together.

It's impossible to run for the mayor of the city of Chicago as one individual. You run with the city clerk. You run with the city treasurer. It needs to be black, it needs to be white, it needs to be brown, it needs to reflect all corners and all aspects of the city of Chicago.

So there's significant credit to be given to Mayor Daley.

But Harold Washington also made it very, very clear -- if I'm going to run for mayor, you need to put up the money. Show the money. This a campaign that would be very expensive and Rahm Emanuel, in the contest we're talking five, six, seven, eight million dollars. If the money is not there, it doesn't make sense to run just to tear the city apart.

Harold Washington said I've got to be able to build my base. Register 50,000 voters. In today's numbers, that's nearly 200,000 voters that need to be registered in the city of Chicago to protect the base, to expand the base.

And then Harold Washington said probably the most important words in politics, from which I believe Barack Obama also benefited. He said I must be allowed to move beyond my base, beyond African-Americans to speak to Chicago, which is Italian-American and Polish-American and Irish-American and Latino-American. I must be able to speak to the broad issues that affect all Chicagoans in order for an African-American to run as mayor.

Those who just want a black mayor are missing Harold's point. Those who just want a white mayor are missing Harold's point. Harold was a coalition builder and that's what Chicago is going to need.

KING: Congressman Jackson, appreciate your coming in tonight.

When you make your decision -- and you only got about a month or so to do it -- come on back.

JACKSON: Less than a month.

Thank you, John.

KING: Good to see you. Good to see you, sir.


- END -



1 Comment

Excellent interview, very impressed!

Leave a comment

Get the Sweet widget

More widgets

Video

Lynn Sweet

Lynn Sweet is a columnist and the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.

Stay in touch

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Lynn Sweet published on September 10, 2010 1:15 AM.

Goolsbee to be new Council of Economic Advisors Chair: U. of Chicago economics professor was the previous entry in this blog.

President Obama official schedule and guidance, Sept. 10, 2010. Press conference is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.