Some African American voters drop Democratic roots for Rauner

March 21, 2014 (CHICAGO)

Is it a fleeting infatuation with Illinois' new political face, Bruce Rauner, or do these Democratic defectors represent a crack in Governor Pat Quinn's base?

When activist Bob Israel sees construction sites with few or no African American workers he blames Democratic elected officials and their trade union allies.

"I'm blaming the Democratic Party because they are being controlled by the unions and that's why we are not working," he said.

So on Tuesday night, Israel was among the disgruntled black Democrats who cheered the gubernatorial nomination of Republican Bruce Rauner.

"We've got a one-party system in Chicago and Illinois. We've got to break it up," said Hermene Hartman, publisher.

Online publisher Hartman says the black community's high unemployment and total lack of economic development caused her this week to vote Republican for the first time.

"We've got to bring about some change. And you're not going to change, if you don't change," he said.

Major Chicago black church leaders, all one-time Democrats, have endorsed Rauner, including the Reverend and former State Senator James Meeks, West Sider the Reverend Marshall Hatch and the South Side's Reverend Stephen Thurston.

"I'm not looking at the party, I'm looking at the issues that are there," Thurston said.

Governor Pat Quinn won over 90 percent of the city and Cook County's black vote in 2010, when he won his first full term over Republican Bill Brady.

"He came into state government at a very difficult time," said Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle.

Preckwinkle warned black voters that Rauner can make promises but has no answers.

"I think it's all smoke and mirrors," she said. "He's going to face the same tough challenges as Pat does and there's no magic solution."

But Republican convert Bob Israel says Democrats have had their chance.

"We been drinking the Democratic Kool-Aid for 40 years and I don't see no change," he said.

Rauner was not the only Republican primary candidate to campaign extensively in Chicago's African American community. Senators Kirk Dillard and Bill Brady also spent significant time there.

Persistent economic problems have put many black precincts up for grabs.

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