Another West Sider has entered the crowded race to succeed Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel. On Nov. 8, state Rep. La Shawn K. Ford (8th) officially announced his candidacy in front of a crowd of at least 200 people at Sankofa Cultural Arts and Business Center, 5820 W. Chicago Ave.
Ford joins candidates such as Roger Washington, a youth pastor and 15-year Chicago Police veteran working in the 25th District, and Amara Enyia, the executive director of the Austin Chamber of Commerce, who hail from the West Side.
Ford, a realtor by trade who has represented the 8th District since 2007, had flirted with the idea of running after getting the tacit endorsement of West Side Black Elected Officials and receiving praise for his leadership from Congressman Danny K. Davis.
In the run-up to the announcement, Ford conducted exploratory meetings across the city to gauge the feasibility of running in a field that includes close to 20 candidates, including Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, former Chicago Public Schools CEO Paul Vallas and former Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy.
During his campaign kickoff last week, Ford and his campaign surrogates centered his candidacy on the West Side and characterized it as a grassroots affair. Ford's is likely the first mayoral campaign kickoff announcement to take place in Austin.
"This is a campaign powered by people, not politics," said Anthony Driver, a 20th Ward aldermanic candidate who heads up Millennials for Ford, before calling Ford "a transparent leader with a proven track record of getting things done."
Tamara Fair, a Chicago radio personality and childcare provider, said that Ford formed a commission on childcare at the state level after hearing about the financial plight of service providers during the budget stalemate that encompassed most of Gov. Bruce Rauner's only term in office.
"We went from being on the menu to being at the table," said Fair, who heads up Childcare for Ford.
"The people of Chicago want a seat at the table," said Ford, who was born in Cabrini Green and grew up in Austin.
"Our beloved city of Chicago should be financially stable, healthy and safe," Ford said. "This is what one Chicago feels like. We know that Chicago needs healing. We can no longer allow Chicago zip codes to determine life expectancy. We need to heal and we can heal."
Ford launched into a litany of solutions that he said characterize "one Chicago."
"When abandoned buildings, vacant lots and vacant storefronts are turned into homes and businesses that pay taxes and create vibrant communities, this is what one Chicago looks like—powered by people," he said.
"When murder cases are solved, illegal guns stop flowing into our neighborhoods and people feel safer in communities, this is what one Chicago feels like," Ford said. "When good police officers don't stay silent and when we have true police reform and real trust between the community and our police, this is what one Chicago feels like."
At one point, before his speech, Ford encouraged a group of African American men among the crowed of roughly 200 people to come to the stage.
"Anybody who feels like you're a black man who has been left out, come up here," he said, before launching into his sharing his own brush with the criminal justice system.
"When I was falsely accused of bank fraud, I had to fight 17 federal felony charges," he said. "After being offered many plea deals to take the felony and spend years in jail, all 17 felony counts were dropped on the day the trial was to start. I was fortunate I had the support and resources to fight the charges, but we know there are so many innocent people who can't afford to fight their charges.
"Our city needs a mayor who can run a business, overcome challenges, knows what real life is like and can help Chicago become powered by the people," Ford said.
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