CHICAGO (CBS) — A South Side millionaire could turn out to be the X-factor in February’s Chicago Mayoral Election.
Dr. Willie Wilson grew up picking cotton, but he ended up reaping millions as a successful entrepreneur.
CBS 2 Chief Correspondent Jay Levine reports the self-made multi-millionaire plans to spend up to $3 million of his own money, which could energize South and West siders already upset with Mayor Emanuel, but until now were without a community candidate to back.
He is not even the best known of the little-known challengers, unless you talk to his benefactors, among them, ministers who were at Wilson’s campaign kickoff on Monday.
“He’s given me his heart and he’s given me his checkbook,” said Rev. TL Barrett of the Life Center Church.
He has no political experience and has never run for office. Of course, neither did Bruce Rauner, who Wilson endorsed in a campaign commercial.
“I happen to think he is a good human being,” Wilson said. “I didn’t look at him as a Republican.”
Wilson’s his own video crew was there today, gathering footage for upcoming TV spots the two-to-three million dollars campaign plans to spend.
Mayor Emanuel, who staged his own campaign kickoff Saturday, before a series of photo ops with the UN Secretary General and announcing another CTA station makeover, appears to be taking Wilson very seriously.
Emanuel’s campaign is challenging signatures on Wilson’s petitions, which could get him thrown off the ballot, and quietly calling attention to his controversial political director Ricky Hendon.
Personally, Wilson appears to have far more money than Emanuel, But he also has street cred and deep scars of inner city violence to prove it.
“I too, had a son get murdered, a 20-year-old son,” Wilson said. “I feel the pain of Chicago and I’m here to fix it.”
Wilson went from mopping floors at McDonalds to owning nine McDonalds franchises. He now runs an international medical supply company. His pledge is to create a Chicago where everyone has equal opportunity to financial success, education, and safety and peace together. Time will tell whether his candidacy will indeed become the X-factor, attracting enough voters in February to force a run-off in April.