Sunday, February 20, 2011

Chicago According to Patricia Watkins

This article explores the 2010-2011 mayoral candidacy of Patricia Watkins. 

Patricia Watkins wasn't invited to the televised January 17 debate between the candidates for Chicago mayor, but that didn't stop her from declaring herself the winner in a statement released after it was over. The Watkins campaign held a "virtual" debate in its South Side office at 79th and Ashland that was broadcast online, during which the 53-year-old candidate answered the same questions Rahm Emanuel, Gery Chico, Miguel del Valle, and Carol Moseley Braun had faced. "Chicago voters need to hear from all the candidates, not just the ones the media has chosen for the spotlight," Watkins said in the statement. "So I'm not going to let something as silly as the lack of an invitation stop me from talking about the issues."

Watkins entered Chicago's most watched political race in November with minimal city-wide name recognition. As of January 20th, she had 1/20th the money of the fund-raising leader (Emanuel) and consistently anemic polling numbers (around or less than one percent in major surveys). But in the narrative she has worked to craft, none of that matters. She wants voters to see Chicago's political life as she does: an illegitimate charade played out by the news media, powerful corporate backers, and the occupants of City Hall, all of whom do little more than perpetuate an equally illegitimate set of economic, legal, and educational policies that have driven the city to the brink and forced misery on the struggling citizens who populate its forgotten, failing neighborhoods. And into this farce, Watkins argues, have now ridden a set of characters vying for control of a reality they've assiduously avoided dealing with, one they neither understand nor truly care about.

On January 31 she was expounding on this message during a candidate forum on 95th Street, one she had been invited to, when Carol Moseley Braun levied the instantly notorious charge that Watkins was unfamiliar with her record due to the "20 years" she had spent "strung out on crack." Braun's intemperate accusation came in response to Watkins' scornful dismissal of Braun's resume. Despite "all the violence running rampant," Watkins had said, "I did not even know the woman lived in the city of Chicago. I have not heard her voice out there on the streets."

"I am tired of seeing people missing in action, come showing up from nowhere," she said after the debate. "It's confusing people. And these people have been confused enough. We've suffered enough."