Chicago Sun-Times - Steve Neal
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Steve Neal

Rush Senate endorsement puts payback before prudence

June 25, 2003

BY STEVE NEAL SUN-TIMES COLUMNIST

Rep. Bobby L. Rush (D-Ill.), an outspoken advocate of black empowerment, has a hidden agenda in pushing Joyce Washington for the U.S. Senate.

Rush is unhappy that state Sen. Barack Obama (D-Chicago) is emerging as the consensus choice of the African-American community in the 2004 Democratic primary for the U.S. Senate. He encouraged Washington to challenge Obama and is seeking to recruit allies to her cause.

Among those supporting Obama are the Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, Illinois Senate President Emil Jones, Representatives Danny K. Davis (D-Ill.) and Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.), former Appellate Court Justices R. Eugene Pincham and William Cousins, state Sen. James Meeks and Aldermen Freddrenna Lyle (6th), Toni Preckwinkle (4th), Leslie Hairston (5th) and Arenda Troutman (20th).

Obama, 41, who teaches law at the University of Chicago and was the first African-American president of the Harvard Law Review, has a very good chance to win the Democratic nomination next March.

Rush, 56, doesn't want that to happen because Obama tried to take away his job three years ago. He still is resentful that Obama had the audacity to run against him and made some critical remarks about the congressman's job performance.

On that occasion, Obama was ill advised. Rush, who has done a good job for the 1st District, won 61 percent of the vote in a four-way field and crushed Obama by more than 2 to 1. Obama has since reached out to Rush.

Settling an old score with Obama isn't the only reason that Rush is promoting Washington's long-shot candidacy. According to knowledgeable sources, this is part of an elaborate scheme to covertly help state Comptroller Dan Hynes, the nominal front-runner in the Democratic senatorial field.

Rush has a longtime relationship with the candidate's father, former Cook County Assessor Thomas C. Hynes, who is still the Democratic committeeman of the Far Southwest Side's 19th Ward. Back in 1992, the elder Hynes provided Rush with critical support in his upset Democratic primary victory over the late Congressman Charles A. Hayes.

But Rush repaid this debt when he backed the younger Hynes for state comptroller in 1998. By using Washington to split the black vote, Rush is counting on the Hynes camp to stop Obama.

In a statewide Democratic primary, about 30 percent of the voters are African American. When the black community is united behind a single candidate, that person is inevitably a strong contender.

As Rush knows better than anyone, rival black candidacies splinter the vote. In the 1990 Democratic primary for the Supreme Court, black judges Cousins and Blanche M. Manning got just over half the vote. This split helped the late Mayor Michael A. Bilandic win the judicial slot with less than half of the vote. If Rush is determined to spoil Obama's chances, there is no better way to do it than with a second black candidate.

Washington, 52, a hospital administrator, was the runner-up in last year's three-way primary for lieutenant governor. Former state Treasurer Pat Quinn defeated her by 108,136 votes. She carried Cook County over Quinn by 849 votes and got about a third of the statewide vote.

As the only African-American candidate in this contest, Washington had the support of Sen. Jones, U.S. Representatives Davis and Jackson, County Commissioner Jerry ''Iceman'' Butler and the Rev. Clay Evans, all of whom are backing Obama for the Senate.

Rush had nothing good to say about Washington when she was running for lieutenant governor. As a strategist for black gubernatorial candidate Roland W. Burris, Rush lamented that Washington's bid might undermine Burris. That wasn't the case.

His support of Washington in the '04 senatorial contest is folly.

With the passing of time, Rush has reconciled with most of his old adversaries, including former Mayor Eugene Sawyer and County Board President John Stroger. This is no time for pettiness. If Rush can rise above being a sorehead, he has the potential to be a history maker.





 
 












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