Obama makes endorsement in race for Chicago alderman

Monday, January 30, 2017

Former President Barack Obama on Monday got involved in Chicago ward politics by endorsing Ald. Sophia King, 4th, in next month's special election — a move a couple of her opponents tried to portray as a sign of weakness and meddling by the powers that be.

The endorsement from the former leader of the free world comes just 10 days after Obama's last day in office and as King soon enters the final month of campaigning for the Feb. 28 election with a strong fundraising advantage.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel appointed King to her post in April after the resignation of Will Burns, a former Obama aide. She is being challenged by three attorneys — Ebony Lucas, Gerald Scott McCarthy and Marcellus Moore Jr. — as well as activist Gregory Seal Livingston.

King's endorsement from Obama comes a little more than a month after she joined the City Council's Progressive Reform Caucus, whose members often oppose Emanuel's initiatives. The mayor continues to try to rebuild support among African-Americans 14 months after the court-ordered release of a police dashboard camera video showing an officer fatally shooting black teen Laquan McDonald.

"Michelle and I have known Sophia many years as a leader dedicated to improving her community," Obama said in a statement released Monday by King's campaign. "Over the years, Sophia has worked to make neighborhood schools and communities better. Sophia is the type of leader Chicago and the 4th Ward need."

The Obamas' Kenwood home is in the 4th Ward, and King and her husband, Alan King, are friends of the Obamas. King said she was "humbled" by Obama's endorsement, which she characterized as the result of her involvement in community issues "long before I became alderman."

She also said she has the support of County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, a former 4th Ward alderman, and state Sen. Kwame Raoul, who holds the General Assembly seat Obama once occupied.

Livingston, however, tried to cast Obama's endorsement as a sign of weakness for King. "I don't think they would have this kind of blitzkrieg going if they were totally confident in their candidate," Livingston said.

And McCarthy maintained that despite all of King's support, she's politically vulnerable. "They should have stayed out of it and let the people decide," he said. "If we get a high turnout, yes, she can be beat."

Attempts to reach Lucas and Moore were not successful. The eventual winner of the special election will serve out the remaining two years of the term Burns left to work for Airbnb.

It's not the first time Obama has gotten involved in local politics in the past year. In March, he endorsed Juliana Stratton over then-Illinois Rep. Ken Dunkin, of Chicago, in last year's Democratic primary. In that state legislative race, Obama cut a TV ad for Stratton, who went on to win the primary and the general election.


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