Willie Wilson ready to challenge Emanuel in mayor's race

Wednesday, November 19, 2014
Chicago businessman ready to take on Emanuel
Willie Wilson, a Chicago businessman, is ready to take on Rahm Emanuel in Chicago's mayoral race.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Willie Wilson, a Chicago businessman, is ready to take on Rahm Emanuel in Chicago's mayoral race.

The newest candidate is a wealthy businessman and philanthropist who, dollar-for-dollar at least, could give Rahm Emanuel a run for his money.

"I work today to give to people," Wilson said.

Willie Wilson is not concerned about getting the necessary 12,500 signatures to get his name on the February ballot.

"I have relationship with the community and I can get those signatures probably in one weekend," Wilson said.

Wilson, who owns a $60 million a year medical supply business, says his voting address is a penthouse apartment overlooking Lake Michigan. It's a long way from rural Louisiana, where he says he picked cotton and dropped out after seventh grade.

"I have a one day in eighth grade education. My B.A. is born again," Wilson said.

Wilson produces a weekly syndicated gospel music television program and sings. His political base attends African-American churches where Wilson has given liberally for decades.

"We give away personally about $800,000 to $1 million a year to churches every year," Wilson said.

And the leaders of those churches say they'll help the candidate.

"We feel good about it. It's not a negative obligation. It's something that we willingly do," said C.E.S.T.L. Barrett, a Wilson supporter.

Wilson, who supported Republican Bruce Rauner in the governor's race, says Rahm Emanuel failed the city's children when Emanuel closed schools.

"I would not do his kids that way or anybody's kids that way," Wilson said.

Wilson has never held public office, but has access to more campaign money than Ald. Bob Fioretti or Cook County Commissioner Jesus Garcia or any Emanuel challenger.

"Listen, I don't know but I can tell you this much: I'm not broke (laughs)," Wilson said.

While money might not be a problem, Wilson still needs to get those signatures and petitions filed by the end of business next Monday. His campaign will be very busy before and after certain church services on Sunday.