Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s choice to replace retired Ald. Will Burns (4th), is not a nobody nobody sent. Far from it.
Sophia King is the wife of Alan King, a house music disc jockey/Chicago attorney who is a close friend and basketball-playing buddy of President Barack Obama.
That just might be how she came to the attention of Emanuel, who served as Obama’s first White House chief of staff.
That doesn’t negate the fact that Sophia King has an established track record of her own as founder and president of Harriet’s Daughters, described by the mayor’s office as a “a non-profit group of professional women that works . . . to create and support policies and processes that secure employment and wealth creation opportunities for African-American neighborhoods.”
But it does mean she’s got clout and connections — in the great Chicago tradition.
On Tuesday, Sophia King arrived at City Hall for a Rules Committee meeting that was supposed to be her confirmation hearing.
It turned into a meet-and-greet session after the confirmation part was postponed until Wednesday, apparently because her name had not appeared on the public notice.
During an all-too-brief question-and-answer session with reporters, a reporter cut to the chase and asked King, “Who sent you?”
“I sent myself,” she said.
“When the previous alderman decided to step down, a number of my neighbors texted me, called me and asked me, would I consider it. My first response was, ‘No.’ But they said, `Just talk to some people. Listen. You’ve been serving the community for over 30 years and doing what we need an alderman to be — kind of a servant leader. Being a service person first and a leader next. Will you consider doing it for us?’”
King did not deny that she and her husband are friends of the Obamas and that a lot of Chicagoans would “make the connection” and conclude that’s how she appeared on Emanuel’s radar screen.
“The president has done a great job. I’m happy to be associated with him. But we knew him way before he was president. We knew him before he was even in the state senate. That relationship goes back,” she said.
Pressed on whether the friendship with the president had anything at all to do with her appointment, King said, “I would hope not.” Nor does she believe she needed a presidential push.
“My record speaks for itself . . . I was born in Colorado and grew up in Evanston, but the moment I moved here, I started volunteering. I helped create the Ariel School, which is in the North Kenwood-Oakland area. I saw that community change, the vibrancy that created and I continued to volunteer,” she said.
“I’m used to serving the community and I’ve always wanted to give back . . . I never thought it would lead to this . . . In terms of volunteering and my work on employment issues, my work on gun violence prevention has kind of led me to this point. It was kind of opportunity meeting my experience . . . It’s a good match.”
King has already filed papers to form a political committee and raised $31,000 in preparation for becoming a candidate in the February special election for 4th Ward alderman.
She has also, wisely, met with 4th Ward Democratic Committeeman and County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, the political powerhouse who spent 19 years as 4th Ward alderman.
“She said good things, [but] I will let her speak for herself and tell you that. Those were private conversations,” King said.
A 2012 profile in Crain’s Chicago Business described Alan King as leading a “double life.”
“By day he’s a partner at the Chicago office of Philadelphia-based Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP, vice chairman of the firm’s employment law practice,” the story said.
“By night he’s a member of the Chosen Few, a renowned group of disc jockeys who helped develop house music in Chicago in the 1980s.”
The story quoted Alan King as saying, “One of the funniest things about this whole dichotomy is half the people in my life say, ‘Alan King, he’s a DJ?’ and the other half say, ‘He’s a lawyer?’ “
Alan King’s DJ talents are showcased at the annual “Chosen Few Reunion Picnic.” The festival is widely known as the “Woodstock of House Music” and routinely attracts upwards of 30,000 people to Jackson Park or Washington Park.