CHICAGO (CBS/WBBM) - The race to be the first mayor since 1989 will be in the political spotlight for months to come, and the involvement of Hollywood fundraisers is drawing ire on some fronts.
As CBS 2’s Mike Puccinelli reports, the election isn’t until Feb. 22, but the politicking is already well underway. And while Rahm Emanuel might have scared a number of candidates out of the race, others are saying not so fast.
One of those candidates is Gery Chico, who held a fundraiser at the Hollywood Grill, a 24-hour diner at 1601 W. North Ave. in the Wicker Park neighborhood.
“This is the real Hollywood. This is the people’s Hollywood,” said Illinois Commerce Commission Chairman Manny Flores, a Chico supporter.
At the Hollywood Grill, dozens turned out to show their support for Chico, a former chief of staff for Mayor Richard M. Daley and most recently the head of the Chicago City Colleges.
The choice of the plebeian diner was in stark contrast to Rahm Emanuel’s fundraiser, which was held Thursday night in the real Tinseltown.
The $1,000 to $5,000-per-plate fundraiser was held in a Beverly Hills mansion, and hosted by Hollywood heavyweights.
Emanuel’s campaign told the Chicago Tribune the fundraiser was hosted by Emanuel’s brother, Ari Emanuel, who is co-chief executive officer of William Morris Endeavor Entertainment. The fundraiser was co-hosted by Walt Disney CEO Bob Iger, former DreamWorks SKG partner David Geffen, and former Fox Entertainment Group CEO Peter Chernin, the Tribune reported.
Back in Chicago, Chico seemed to delight in his more salt-of-the-earth get-together.
“No doubt he’s hobnobbing with the stars, sipping champagnes, talking with the celebrities — but we’ve chosen our own form of Hollywood, right here in Chicago,” Chico said.
Chico said while Emanuel has seen fit to conduct a “listening tour” to determine the needs and wants of Chicago voters, he already knows the issues.
“Chicago’s a great city, but reality is that we’ve lost our momentum, and a piecemeal approach will just not fix our problems,” he said. “We need new leadership and a new direction.”
Chico said he is the one coming home with something Emanuel does not yet have — the first public endorsement of the campaign from a Chicago alderman.
Ald. “Proco” Joe Moreno (1st) said he made the decision to endorse Chico only after the candidates appeared before his ward organization. He said Chico answered more directly and offered specific solutions.
“He has proven results in Chicago,” Moreno said of Chico.
Meanwhile, fellow mayoral candidate and former U.S. Sen. Carol Moseley Braun was more even biting in her criticism of Emanuel’s Hollywood fundraiser.
“On this day when President Obama and Illinois Democrats are still recovering from the painful political debacle that he was the architect of, Rahm Emanuel is off in Hollywood hanging out with bankers and billionaires,” Braun said in a written statement. “But maybe Hollywood is where he belongs because the story of how he helped the Obama administration when he was chief of staff is indeed fiction. Rahm Emanuel cut and ran after pushing policies that lead to the biggest Democratic Party political loss in 27 years. He left the President holding the bag. If Rahm abandoned the President of the United States, what makes anybody think he’ll stick by regular Chicagoans?”
Meanwhile, fresh off his reelection to Congress, U.S. Rep. Danny Davis (D-Ill.) is mulling over a possible mayoral run.
The Chicago Coalition for Mayor – an organization of more than 20 African-American businesses and interest groups – has been in the process of selecting a consensus candidate, so as not to have two African-American candidates splitting the vote. But Davis has expressed dissatisfaction with their process.
Davis’ staffers claim they are up to 20,000 signatures to get their candidate on the ballot. Only 12,500 are needed.
Last week, the coalition picked Braun and attorney Larry Rogers Jr. as its finalists for a consensus candidate. But negative feedback from Coalition members this week forced the Coalition to re-start the process.
Illinois State Sen. Rev. James Meeks is still expected to get into the race, as is state Sen. Rickey Hendon. City Clerk Miguel Del Valle has already declared his candidacy.
While the field is not as crowded as it appeared when Mayor Daley announced his plans to retire. Some anticipated candidates, including U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) and Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart, have decided not to run after all. Ald. Robert Fioretti (2nd) also called off his plans to run after being diagnosed with cancer.
But there are still more than enough candidates to make for an interesting next few months.
CBS 2′s Mike Puccinelli and WBBM Newsradio 780′s Bob Roberts contributed to this report.