CHICAGO — The race to replace Chicago’s longtime mayor took better shape Sunday as two more candidates joined a crowded field that also includes former White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel.
U.S. Rep. Danny Davis and state Sen. James Meeks, the pastor of a Chicago megachurch, both formally announced their campaigns during a busy weekend in the race to take over for Mayor Richard M. Daley. Daley, who has led the country’s third largest city for more than two decades, surprised many by announcing in September that he would not seek a seventh term.
The two Democrats and Emanuel, who made his official campaign announcement Saturday, pushed the field of declared candidates to five, and another well-known politician is expected to announce soon.
“We need a leader who will bring people out of this division and this turmoil to a place called unity and peace,” Meeks told a roaring crowd of more than 400 supporters at a rally Sunday night at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
Meeks, who got the backing of the former head of the Illinois Republican Party at the rally, focused heavily on his plans to improve the quality of Chicago public schools. It’s a cause he has championed as a state legislator in his call for better school funding, which now relies on property taxes and can mean disparities between rich and poor areas in the state.
Earlier in the day, Davis also pledged to be a unifying force in the city who would represent the interests of all the city’s residents.
“I will be the mayor for every racial and ethnic group, reaching out to all will be the benchmark of a Danny Davis administration,” Davis told more than 100 supporters at a downtown Chicago hotel.
Davis, who has been in Congress since 1997, was tapped earlier this month by a coalition of black leaders as their preferred candidate over other finalists, including Meeks and former U.S. Sen. Carol Moseley Braun.
Braun, the country’s first black woman senator, has already opened a campaign office and plans an official announcement soon.
The coalition, which included elected officials, business owners and activists, had hoped to avoid splitting the black vote by uniting behind one candidate. Members said they chose Davis, who previously served on the Cook County Board and the Chicago City Council, because of his broad government experience.
Davis didn’t offer specific policies at his Sunday announcement and admitted he didn’t have the answers to all the city’s problems, including its financial woes.
“All of us know that there are no simple solutions to very complex problems, and I don’t pretend at the moment to have an answer to all our financial problems and the financial difficulties which face our city … no one does,” he said.
But Davis said he has never run from a problem and promised to work to create jobs and economic opportunities. He also said he would do everything in his power to save children from drug use, abuse, incarceration and poverty.
Davis was re-elected Nov. 2 with about 80 percent of the vote to another term representing a congressional district that spans economically and racially diverse areas from Chicago to the western suburbs.
The mayoral race also includes City Clerk Miguel del Valle and former Chicago school board president Gery Chico, who have already declared.