(COMMONDREAMS) Ahead of the Illinois Democratic primary that is now just days away, Bernie Sanders has taken a quick moment to thank the mayor of that state’s largest city for not endorsing his presidential campaign.
Under fire from large swaths of Chicago’s residents for his regressive handling of city affairs—including unrelenting attacks against the city’s public schools and its teachers as well how he’s handled cases of police violence—Mayor Rahm Emanuel was offered gratitude by Sanders for endorsing his rival Hillary Clinton’s campaign and not his own.
In an interview with the Chicago Sun Times published late Friday evening, Sanders called Emanuel a “terrible mayor” and pointed to his close ties to Clinton and the mutual support they have shown one another, including Emanuel’s endorsement of her and how she has used that endorsement to vouchesafe the support she’s garnered among U.S. mayors.
“If [Clinton] feels it is important to tout Mayor Emanuel’s support,” Sanders told the Sun-Times, “then I think it’s fair for us to say that there are many people in Chicago who think he is not doing a particularly good job, who think he is more on the side of Wall Street than he is on the side of the working families of the city.”
As this recent piece in Quartz argues, the past relationship with Emanuel has become possibly “radioactive” for the Clinton campaign:
The former White House chief of staff for Barack Obama is so unpopular among his constituents that he has become a political pariah on the presidential campaign trail. That’s particularly true for black voters in Chicago, who backed him in mayoral elections but are upset at the way he has handled police misconduct after several high-profile fatal shootings.
It’s no surprise Emanuel hasn’t been invited to any Bernie Sanders events, as the candidate himself said he does not want the mayor’s support. But Emanuel is a longtime confidant and friend to the Clintons, and he was nowhere to be seen at a get-out-the-vote event headlining Bill Clinton on Tuesday (March 8) in Evanston and a Hillary Clinton rally in Vernon Hills on Thursday (March 10).
“Rahm’s toxic among black voters,” wrote John Kass at the Chicago Tribune, and he “may have a contagious political illness that could threaten Hillary Clinton.”
In comments to Politico, Sanders’ campaign manager Jeff Weaver made it clear that in addition to their divergent approaches on economic policies, police violence in the city and the specific case of Laquan McDonald—who was gunned down by police officers last year—offers a clear contrast when it comes to city governance.
“You have this horrendous, horrendous problem with police violence and the whole Laquan McDonald situation. These are very important issues to the people of Chicago,” Weaver said. “Bernie Sanders has been very strong in condemning the Emanuel administration, Secretary Clinton has stood by him over the interest of the people of Chicago.”
Reporting on a series of new campaign ads focused on Chicago, Politico adds:
Sanders’ brain trust believes that if the senator’s argument in the final days before voting is successful, he could peel off about one-third of the black voters in the state where Clinton grew up — a repeat of the dynamic that helped him to victory in Michigan. A strong showing in Illinois, in addition to his Michigan victory and victories in places as varied as Maine, Minnesota and Oklahoma, would support the senator’s argument that he is expanding his national coalition while the front-runner’s base remains rooted in the South.
In one of the new Sanders advertisements, Cook County Commissioner (and unsuccessful mayoral challenger) Chuy Garcia walks around Chicago, insisting “this is a year for transformative change.”
Another, starring Chicago Public Schools principal Tony LaRaviere, goes even further. “In Chicago, we have endured a corrupt political system, and the chief politician standing in the way of us getting good schools is our mayor,” he says in the 30-second spot that highlights Chicago’s educational funding problem. “If you have a presidential candidate who supports someone like our mayor, you have a candidate who’s not willing to take on the establishment.”
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