By Ed Marshall, CBS 2 Political Producer
CHICAGO (CBS) — On Tuesday, voters will have a historic opportunity to gauge the top two candidates during the first-ever televised Illinois gubernatorial debate focusing primarily on issues of importance to the African-American community.
Incumbent Pat Quinn and his Republican opponent, Bruce Rauner, recognize that African American votes are crucial. Four years ago, African American voters in Chicago delivered a victory for Quinn. As Roosevelt University professor Paul Green notes, Quinn’s Republican opponent, Bill Brady, “had a non-Chicago campaign.” Quinn’s total statewide margin of victory in 2010 was just 32,000 votes.
Rauner is now counting on two efforts to carve into Quinn’s support among African American groups: his own visible outreach to black voters, as well as his personal, social and financial commitments in the African American community, which date back to over a decade or more. Examples of Rauner’s efforts include funding charter schools in African American and Latino neighborhoods, building the Red Cross Center on the West Side and providing substantial financial support to A Safe Haven, a West Side re-entry center for jobless veterans.
This is not the first time African Americans in Chicago have been courted by Republicans. In 1990, Downstate Republican Jim Edgar received a whopping 20 percent of the African American vote in 19 city wards. This allowed him to beat Chicago Democrat Neil Hartigan by 84,000 total votes statewide. Analysts believe half of those winning votes came from African American’s living in Chicago.
Interestingly, in the estimated $50 million-plus TV ad war, it has been Rauner and not Quinn who has featured African Americans in his spots airing on Chicago stations.
Many African American voters say they fear Quinn takes their vote for granted. They worry that their families are no better and perhaps worse off than they were four years ago. With the unpopular Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s re-election just around the corner in February, it is a dangerous time for candidates to assume African American Chicago voters will vote Democratic because they always have.
These are just some of the reasons voters can’t afford to miss the upcoming Illinois gubernatorial debate on CBS 2. Tune in on October 14 at 6:00 p.m. You’ll be watching history in the making.