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Chicago Mayoral Challenger Must Unite Blacks, Hispanics Against Rahm to Win

As Election Day nears in the City of Chicago, one thing is clear: incumbent Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s challenger must unite the city’s minorities to topple him. But by some accounts, that coalition is looking like it is difficult to maintain.

Like many in the Windy City, former Obama Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel expected to easily cruise to re-election in February’s general election. With tens of millions in his campaign warchest, Emanuel didn’t expect to be forced into a runoff election, the first in the city’s history.

What drove that loss was Emanuel’s antagonism of the city’s minority voters and the mayor’s opponent, Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, moved to take advantage of that weakness.

Garcia quickly gained the support of the Hispanic community and much of the city’s union representatives — both of teachers and city services. Surprising many long-time watchers of Chicago politics, some African Americans also joined his effort. The latter was given voice when Operation Push chief Jesse Jackson and a cadre of African American ministers endorsed Garcia.

To beat Emanuel, Garcia must maintain this coalition of disparate voting blocks that don’t always work well together. As a recent piece in The New York Times seems to show, it isn’t an easy task. Ultimately, it seems that racial animosity is the biggest problem facing Garcia’s coalition.

The Times found at least one African American voter who insisted that he would not vote for a Hispanic candidate for mayor, a sentiment that has plagued the city’s minority communities for decades.

This racism, though, disgusts one of the African American leaders who endorsed Garcia. Chicago Congressman Danny Davis said that it “infuriates” him when he hears “African-Americans try to run the race game on Chuy Garcia.”

“There is a feeling that somehow or another, this is competition, and that competition will take something away from the African-American community and give it to the Latino community,” Davis told the paper. “Which is a faulty assumption, but that’s the way race division works.”

Unfortunately for Garcia, by some polls it appears that Garcia hasn’t budged enough black voters to topple the mayor, but Emanuel has lost support of the Hispanic community and the teachers, regardless.

Garcia’s camp, though, disputes these polls. He says that his internal polling says that Emanuel can’t win.

Once the final vote is cast, though, if Garcia can’t make a bigger dent in the city’s African American vote, Emanuel will finally win his re-election.

Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter: @warnerthuston. Email the author at igcolonel@hotmail.com.

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