With Election Day three weeks away, and voters able to cast their ballot early, the competition is ramping up to become the city’s next mayor.
At a mayoral forum Sunday hosted by Trinity United Church of Christ on the South Side, candidates Carol Moseley Braun and Patricia Van Pelt-Watkins exchanged some heated words.
Watkins accused Braun of not being a visible member of Chicago’s black community since becoming a United States senator and then a U.S. ambassador.
Braun quipped back, “Patricia, the reason you didn’t know where I was the last 20 years is because you were strung out on crack.”
Watkins has admitted to drug problems as a teenager and said she has been clean for more than 20 years and has never used crack cocaine. After Sunday’s forum, she called for an apology.
“What Carol said to me today was indefensible and untrue,” Watkins said in a news release Monday. “Carol owes an apology to me and to every person who has struggled with an addiction in the city of Chicago.”
In an interview with television station WFLD on Monday night, Braun said, “Had I not done anything in response to what was a clear attack on me… if I just sat there and just not done anything, I would have been accused on not being responsive and just being a wimp.”
Braun apologized in a news conference Tuesday.
At mayoral forum last week sponsored by the Chicago Tribune and WGN, Braun, Rahm Emanuel, Gery Chico and Miguel del Valle were invited. Watkins attempted to join the debate, but was turned away at the door by WGN staff. Doc Walls, another candidate, was also not allowed to attend. WGN and the Tribune said they invited the top four candidates as declared by a recent poll.
Speaking about adding police officers to the force when he was Mayor Richard M. Daley’s chief of staff, Chico said, “I did this before in 1993, we brought one thousand police officers onto the force. I think I’m the only person who’s hired a police officer.”
Braun interrupted, “Gery, you can’t take credit for what Mayor Daley did.”
“Well I recommended it to Mayor Daley,” Chico said.
With less than one month until Election Day, all of the candidates present at Thursday’s debate were hopeful.
In addition to Emanuel and Chico, who have been airing television advertisements for weeks, Braun said her campaign is set to begin airing spots soon.
“The field has not changed, the conversations have not changed, and we are continuing to move forward to bring our message to the people of Chicago,” Braun said.
“We have a good four weeks left to go and I intend to press vigorously on the issues that mean something to the men and women that live in our neighborhoods and their families,” Chico said.
Eligible voters can vote at the Board of Elections and one precinct in each ward until Feb. 17. Voters can use any site and do not need an excuse.