Chance the Rapper stepped into Chicago’s crowded mayoral race Tuesday morning by throwing his support behind candidate Amara Enyia.
“I would like to say very narcissistically if I back you, you have a chance, absolutely,” said Chance. “I want to work with somebody that’s about change…the one person, in my research, of this wide open race that’s views align with me would obviously be candidate Amara Enyia.”
Chance, whose given name is Chancelor Bennett, set off a storm of speculation Monday afternoon when he tweeted “City Hall pull up” to announce a 10:00am press conference, with rumors he may announce a run for mayor himself. The rapper has been openly critical of Rahm Emanuel in both the public sphere and in his music – and even bought the Chicagoist website as part of his quest to see Emanuel ousted. He’s also been active in social justice movements in Chicago. Over the summer, Chance led an anti-violence march alongside Father Michael Pfleger of St. Sabina’s Church in Auburn Gresham.
“I believe that me and Amara share a vision on what Chicago could be,” said Chance. “We believe in supporting the people at the bottom economically — people who have just been written off.”
Enyia, a public policy consultant and director of the Austin Chamber of Commerce, was an early candidate for mayor in 2015, but dropped out after her petition signatures were challenged by Willie Wilson. She later folded her campaign into Alderman Bob Fioretti’s. Enyia declared her candidacy formally over the summer, and also took part in an early candidate forum that took place in Horner Park.
Enyia said her and Chance have “been in the trenches on this city’s behalf for years,” and recalled her involvement in fighting the CPS closures, fighting for TIF reform, advocating for better mental health services, and their support of the “No Cop Academy” movement, which has been opposing the construction of a new $95 million police academy on the West Side.
“There is no question about our past. But the question at hand is about Chicago’s future,” said Enyia. “We are at an historic moment where we as a city get to decide the path we take. We believe that this is our chance to break away from the status quo. To set forth a vision that gives hope to the youth, stability to our adults, and safety and security for our seniors.”
Amara for Mayor
— Chance The Rapper (@chancetherapper) October 16, 2018
At least 17 people have announced their intention to run in the 2019 mayor’s race, and several more are testing the waters. Among them is Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, whose campaign is co-chaired by Chance’s father, Ken Bennett.
“Ken is a dedicated and loving husband and father who has clearly passed on his love for his city and his value in public service and advocacy,” said Preckwinkle in a statement to the press. “I respect his son’s commitment to our city, his eagerness to engage in the issues impacting our communities and his willingness to use his platform to express his opinion.”
Enyia is considered something of a long shot candidate, particularly with larger names like Preckwinkle, former Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy, and former CPS CEO Paul Vallas in the race. But, with the field more crowded than any time in recent memory, candidates need to stand out. Chance’s endorsement has the potential to draw in both first time and disenfranchised voters, particularly ones who may not be interested in a race that so far appears to be more about name recognition than actual issues. Chance highlighted this at the press conference.
“Around 30 percent of eligible voters voted in the last election. We focus a lot, that 30 percent likes to argue back and forth about who has the highest chance of winning the election or winning in a runoff. We don’t talk about the issues at hand – we don’t talk about who needs to be in office, who needs to bring a chance, and that’s what this is about.”
Indeed, before Emanuel announced he wouldn’t run for a third term the election was mostly considered a done deal for Rahm despite it being more than half a year away and so many challengers stepping up. Chance said that kind of stagnation in the mayor’s office is why he endorsed Enyia.
“We haven’t had anybody that’s truly an activist, somebody that’s gonna be active in office,” he said. “If you’re afraid of change you’re probably not going to vote for Amara. But if you’re willing to see what this city could be, then you will vote for her.”
Enyia said the endorsement wasn’t a “typical flash in the pan endorsement,” that it represented a commitment, and that it wasn’t only about Chicago.
“This is national in scope. The influence Chance brings to this is because this is part of a broader movement for people who are clamoring for a different kind of city,” said Enyia. “This is just the beginning.”