Is courting black voters working in Illinois? | WBEZ
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The courtship of black votes: Is it working?

Governor Quinn, in my opinion, is taking the African-American vote for granted. I will deliver real results for African-American families. African-American families are suffering. - GOP gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner

My opponent had 51 executives in his company. No African Americans. Not one. And I think that’s the record. With the respect to our cabinet, it’s diverse. - Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn

Those darts and others flew earlier this month when the two candidates debated at DuSable Museum of African American History on Chicago’s South Side. Each argued that he’s the better friend to blacks.

Chicago Urban League sponsored the debate, and CEO Andrea Zopp evaluated the attention to African-American voters.

“It depends on whether you’re trying to be cynical or not. So let’s take the non-cynical approach first. I think it’s terrific. In the last gubernatorial race in 2010, we held a forum here for the gubernatorial race and Bill Brady wouldn’t even come to the South Side,” Zopp said.

Zopp said that it’s important that the GOP recognize black voting power. But, she added, “The issue is of course the cynical side, is they’re doing that right now. That once they get elected, we’re irrelevant to them and that’s certainly of concern.”

Democratic strategist Delmarie Cobb said Quinn has black folk to thank for his 2010 victory. He got 90 percent of the black vote. Cobb said Quinn’s opponent this year took notice.

“The path to victory for the Republican candidate Bruce Rauner was determined before he entered the race and he decided the path to victory was through the African-American community,” Cobb said.

Pastors and other high-profile African Americans have endorsed Rauner and dairy businessman Jim Oberweis, who’s trying to unseat Illinois U.S. Senator Dick Durbin, a Democrat. Oberweis has an office in Woodlawn and the GOP has recently opened offices on the South and West Sides.

“I don’t know if it’s made any significant changes in terms of what will it mean for African Americans when the election is over. My belief is if African Americans don’t hold elected officials accountable, none of it means anything,” Cobb said.

African-American voters can be Democratic party loyalists -- but consider  the 1990s. Republican Governor Jim Edgar reaped black support. He was a moderate who had a record in black communities.

Community organizer Mark Allen said he’s not sure what voter turnout will be this year. But for the first time, he’s not endorsing any individuals for election.

“We’re trying to finally focus on the economic issues because the black community once again is just as broke before these campaigns, just as broke during the campaigns and they’re just as broke after the campaigns are over because we get so involved with the partisanship of these agendas, that we lose the economics,” Allen said.

Get out the vote

On a sunny autumn day, organizers with the Black Youth Project are doing GOTV - get out the vote - at the 63rd and King Drive Green Line stop. They’re out to get young people to take a pledge that they will vote on Nov. 4.

Charlene Carruthers is with the Black Youth Project and said one part of the black demographic is overlooked:

“We know that in 2008, 2010 and also in 2012, young black voters were among the greatest when we look at the youth demographic. Our vote absolutely matters. It will absolutely impact the election statewide.”

But Carruthers said candidates - regardless of political party -- aren’t speaking to issues that young people care about -- things like  reforming the criminal justice system.

In jockeying for the black vote, Carruthers said any candidate from any party needs to do more than show up around election time.

is WBEZ’s South Side Bureau reporter. Follow Natalie on Google+,  Twitter

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