Chicago black voters key in upcoming elections

January 15, 2008 4:02:55 PM PST
The Democratic presidential candidates are in a struggle for the support of African-American voters, and Chicago will be a major battlefield in that war.

ABC7Chicago is told that the Hillary Clinton campaign has no paid staff working Illinois, her home state, in preparation for the February 5th primary. But, Clinton is by no means conceding to some residents' favorite son, Barack Obama, when it comes to African-American voters.

Between laps, a group of middle-aged African-Americans at a Chicago area roller rink, talked politics Tuesday. Everyone with whom ABC7 Chicago spoke had made their choice for president already.

"I'm voting for Barack Obama because he has so much to offer our community, our nation, just everywhere," said Josette Jackson, an Obama supporter.

" Barack Obama, the person that I'm going to vote for, is totally qualified from top to bottom," said Nate Simpson, also an Obama supporter.

"I think if we focus our energy on him, he can do this. And if we can believe it, he can be the next president," Obama supporter Charmin Jones said.

In a Democratic party primary, Illinois' blacks are estimated to cast as much as 35 percent of the total vote. They could be the difference in the race between Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and John Edwards.

"You now have a right in this day and time not to just change your vote, you can sway a vote," said the Rev. Walter Turner of the Illinois Faith-based Association.

As Clinton is trying to cut into Obama's natural base in Illinois and the rest of the super Tuesday states, political consultant and Clinton supporter Delmarie Cobb is concerned that recent Clinton comments about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement might energize black voters for Obama.

"Strategically, if you can make the white candidate look as though there's a problem, then you get the attention of the African-American electorate," she said.

But radio host and Obama supporter Cliff Kelley say the Clintons are trying to inject race in the campaign.

"They're more white voters in this country. So, if you're going to play the race card, that's to the disadvantage, in my opinion, of Senator Obama," Kelley said.

Kelley says his theory that the Clintons are trying to inject race in the campaign was buttressed Tuesday when Hillary's husband, former President Bill Clinton, made a guest appearance on the Rev. Al Sharpton's national radio program.

The racial controversy in the coming presidential election is still simmering, if not at full boil.