by Thelma Sardin
Chicago’s mayoral contest has shown no plans of slowing down. With less than twenty days left until the election, candidates are canvassing for undecided voters and hoping to sway a few of them to their side. Mayoral hopefuls squared off on Sunday in a confrontation that got personal between two of the only African-American female candidates.
Mayoral candidate Dr. Patricia Watkins is calling for an apology from fellow candidate Carol Moseley Braun. During a mayoral candidate forum at Trinity United Church of Christ, Braun accused Watkins of using crack when Watkins asked Braun about not being visible in Chicago’s communities for the last twenty years.
Braun, whose brother died from drug and alcohol abuse in 1986 according to a report in the Chicago Sun-times, could have touched a nerve with other voters who have shared similar experiences to that of Watkins.
Watkins, who said she has been clean for more than 30 years admitted to using cocaine when she was 19, but said she has never used crack. She earned a Ph.D. and now runs a church and ministers in the community.
“I don’t expect an apology from ambassador Braun but I do expect her to apologize to the millions of people who have struggled with addiction,” Watkins said during a press conference on Monday. “This incident has definitely said more about her character than mine. It also sheds some light on her previous voting record.”
This isn’t the first time that an issue regarding substance abuse has come up in a campaign where Braun was a candidate. During her 2004 U.S. Presidential run, Braun participated in a CNN forum with seven Democratic candidates vying for the Democratic presidential nomination. The forum’s moderator, Anderson Cooper asked the candidates, “Which of you are willing to admit having used marijuana in the past?” The LA Times reported that Braun refused to answer the question.
When asked about the LA Times report and Braun’s refusal to answer the question back in 2004, Braun’s spokesperson, Renee Ferguson, did not respond by press time. But in a statement issued through Ferguson and reported by the Chicago Tribune, Braun said, “My comments were not meant to offend those who have struggled with drug addiction.” She added, “And especially not those who have turned their lives around.”
Watkins says her role in the confrontation was not negative. “I simply asked where she had been for the last 20 years? Her response was hurtful and uncalled for,” she stated in an e-mail to the Citizen. She added, since the remarks, “I have received overwhelming support from many caring Chicagoans,” Watkins stated.
The exchange gained the attention of columnists across the city and became the focus of news reports including Chicago Sun-times columnist Mary Mitchell who said, “Instead of joining forces to keep Emanuel from gaining the mayoral office without a runoff, these two Black candidates are battling each other.”
Rahm Emanuel, who is ahead of both contestants, ironically was not present at the forum. On Thursday, he received a favorable nod from the Illinois Supreme Court which held that he could run for mayor of Chicago.
“The good news is now that we have the Supreme Court decision, it’s behind us,” he said during a debate at WGN-TV. “Hopefully this will be the last question about it for all of us, including myself,” Emanuel stated.
Lisette Livingston contributed to this report