Emanuel Denies Petition Challenge Is Racist Ploy

Fran Spielman, Chicago Sun-Times, December 18, 2014

Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Thursday categorically denied that he’s trying to disenfranchise African-American voters by seeking to knock millionaire black businessman Willie Wilson off the ballot.

“All of us . . . have to meet a threshold–not just for signatures. We also have to meet a threshold with ideas. We have to meet a threshold with the commitment to see those ideas through. We have to meet the threshold to also have the passion to see those ideas through and the fortitude to make the tough decisions necessary,” he said.

“There’s a threshold set up by the Board of Elections. People have challenged me. But I really do believe the threshold is about the ideas and the commitment you have for the city of Chicago.”

Wilson is a former McDonald’s franchise holder who has built a thriving medical supply business into a $60 million fortune. He has built a strong following by donating millions to black churches and hosting a weekly Gospel music television show, “Singsation.”

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On Thursday, Emanuel rejected the Wilson camp’s claim that the petition challenge is an act of voter suppression–that the mayor wants to depress the black vote to avoid a run-off.

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Emanuel’s campaign manager Michael Ruemmler has alleged that there is an “astonishing pattern of deception” to the 47,500 signatures that Wilson filed.

Ruemmler claimed that Wilson’s petitions are riddled with “fake and duplicate signatures, false addresses of petitioners and . . . name and address strikeouts.”

The Chicago Board of Election Commissioners has not yet issued a final ruling.

Earlier this week, Wilson’s attorney Frank Avila Jr. held a news conference in front of the mayor’s office to denounce the petition challenge as racist and the process as rigged.

“This objection and the objection process is similar to the poll tax we used to see in the Deep South. This objection and the objection process is similar to a literacy test for Mr. Wilson,” Avila said.

“This is a racist and discriminatory campaign. It’s a racist and discriminatory objection. And the process . . . violates the Constitution.”

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