Union leader clarifies 'Judas' remarks

February 16, 2011 8:56:28 PM PST
With only five days until the election, the gloves are coming off in the mayor's race with stronger attacks being leveled against the poll front runner Rahm Emanuel.

A union leader called Emanuel a "Wall Street Judas" who collected bags of silver.

He is trying to become the first Jewish mayor of the City of Chicago. While religion has not been an issue in the campaign, Emanuel hinted that the remarks made on Wednesday were offensive. Now the union boss is clarifying his comments.

"My reference to Judas is like Judas would be to anybody else. Like Kleenex is to tissue paper. He's a traitor," said Jim Sweeney, Operating Engineers Local 150.

Sweeney says he and other union members oppose Emanuel because they believe he has hurt labor with his support for the North American Free Trade Agreement in the Clinton White House as well as other more recent issues. But his remarks at a rally Tuesday for Gery Chico are drawing attention for other reasons.

"Rahm Emanuel doesn't live it. He's nothing but a Wall Street Judas," Sweeney said Tuesday.

"I have absolute confidence the people of Chicago will see this comment for what it is and reject the values behind it," said Emanuel.

Meanwhile, a group of Latino protesters demonstrated in front of Emanuel's Loop campaign office Wednesday night. They accuse the candidate of being anti-immigration. He has denied that but they are concerned about polls showing Emanuel with a big lead.

"It would be a shame if Emanuel wins the election for Chicago in the first round. We are hopeful for at least a runoff where there's more time to discuss issues," said Jorge Mojica activist.

Emanuel and the runner up in recent polls, Gery Chico, were no-shows at a West Side candidate forum Wednesday night. Also absent was Carol Mosley Braun, allowing the other three candidates to draw votes away and force a run-off.

"The voters in the city of chicago want the runoff and they need the runoff in order for us to have the time necessary to really determine who will be the most effective individual to run this city," said candidate Miguel Del Valle.

Del Valle said Emanuel was the man most responsible for derailing immigration reform.

Political experts say Thursday night's final debate on ABC7 could be critical.

"It is the biggest viewer audience. It is the last chance they have to sell themselves. Think of it like the closing argument in a legal case," said Dick Simpson, professor of political science, UIC.

Simpson also says despite what the polls say right now it will still come down to the candidates getting their voters out. That's where grass roots volunteers come in.

4 candidates attend forum

Four of the six candidates for mayor attended a debate at the Kent College of Law Building in the West Loop Tuesday.

Carol Mosely Braun, Miguel del Valle, Patrica Van Pelt Watkins and William "Dock" Walls attended the debate. Gery Chico and Rahm Emanuel said they had other commitments.

The Chicago Foundation for Women was among the debate's sponsors.

Chico was at boisterous union rally getting support from more union locals. Hundreds of union workers packed a Union Hall on the South Side for Chico.

Several unions, including the laborers, electrical workers and operating engineers announced that they will endorse Chico for mayor.

Emanuel could have a tense relationship with the city council if elected mayor, especially after his public shot at the dean of the council, Alderman Ed Burke.

During a debate Monday, Emanuel questioned the need for Burke's security detail. Emanuel also suggested Burke may lose the chairmanship of the finance committee. Burke, who is backing Chico, has not publicly commented about what Emanuel said.

The mayoral candidates will debate live from the Oriental Theatre Thursday night on ABC7. The debate starts at 7 p.m. The debate will also be streamed live on our website abc7chicago.com.