State Rep. La Shawn K. Ford, whose 8th District includes a portion of Oak Park, recently announced his bid to succeed Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel. Ford made the announcement on Nov. 8 at Sankofa Cultural Arts and Business Center in Austin, a few blocks from the Oak Park border.
On Nov. 6, Ford was re-elected to the state House, running unopposed. A realtor by trade who has represented the 8th District since 2007, Ford had flirted with the idea of running after getting the tacit endorsement of West Side Black Elected Officials and receiving praise for his leadership from Congressman Danny K. Davis.
In the run-up to the announcement, Ford conducted exploratory meetings across the city to gauge the feasibility of running in a field that includes close to 20 candidates, including Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, former Chicago Public Schools CEO Paul Vallas and former Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy.
During his campaign kickoff last week, Ford and his campaign surrogates centered his candidacy on the West Side and characterized it as a grassroots affair. Ford’s is likely the first mayoral campaign kickoff announcement to take place in Austin.
Tamara Fair, a Chicago radio personality and child-care provider, said that Ford formed a commission on child care at the state level after hearing about the financial plight of service providers during the budget stalemate that characterized most of Gov. Bruce Rauner’s only term in office.
“We went from being on the menu to being at the table,” said Fair, who heads up Childcare for Ford.
“The people of Chicago want a seat at the table,” said Ford, who was born in Cabrini Green and grew up in Austin.
“Our beloved city of Chicago should be financially stable, healthy and safe,” Ford said. “This is what one Chicago feels like. We know that Chicago needs healing. We can no longer allow Chicago zip codes to determine life expectancy. We need to heal and we can heal.”
Ford launched into a litany of solutions that he said characterize “one Chicago.”
“When abandoned buildings, vacant lots and vacant storefronts are turned into homes and businesses that pay taxes and create vibrant communities, this is what one Chicago looks like — powered by people,” he said.
At one point before his speech, Ford encouraged a group of African-American men among the crowd of roughly 200 people to come to the stage.
“Anybody who feels like you’re a black man who has been left out, come up here,” he said, before sharing his own brush with the criminal justice system.
“When I was falsely accused of bank fraud, I had to fight 17 federal felony charges,” he said. “After being offered many plea deals to take the felony and spend years in jail, all 17 felony counts were dropped on the day the trial was to start. I was fortunate I had the support and resources to fight the charges, but we know there are so many innocent people who can’t afford to fight their charges.
“Our city needs a mayor who can run a business, overcome challenges, knows what real life is like, and can help Chicago become powered by the people,” Ford said.