There is nothing like a good, old fashioned, spirited competition. Be it economic, athletic or political, an equally contested battle usually produces good results.
In the current race for mayor of the City of Kankakee, there are two separate races in the Primary Election. All four candidates currently represent a diverse constituency: two city government representatives, one school board member and one park district board member. It should be fun to watch.
Two males are vying to win the Republican ticket and two females are battling for the Democrat nod. Having heard each candidate at least once present their respective qualifications, desires, reasons and merits for seeking this particular office, by all accounts the two races should be interesting, respectful and competitive. And it has been in the Republican campaign.
It would be accurate to say that current 6th Ward Alderman Chris Curtis and Kankakee Park District Board member Alfred “J.J.” Hollis have run a competitive, respectful, but quiet campaign to be the Republican candidate in the March General Election. It is also safe to say that voters who request a Republican ballot will choose who they deem the best candidate.
On the other hand, the Democrat battle has been a little more spirited, hotly contested campaign between incumbent Mayor Chasity Wells-Armstrong and challenger, Kankakee School District 111 Board member Angela Shea. Beyond the factors of qualifications, agendas and promises, the race card has been played. The only question is why. Race has not been made a factor in the Republican race although one candidate is Black and one is White. Why would race be an issue in the Democrat side when likewise, one candidate is Black and one is White?
The Democrat race has been more vocal and noticeable. Questionable issues have been raised by the challenger against the incumbent. It is par for the course in an election that an incumbent makes the easiest target. And, it is to be expected. One issue in particular that has piqued voter interest is an accusation by the challenger that there have been city ordinance violations in the form of improper campaign donations accepted by the incumbent.
The matter initially had enough merit to warrant a special City Council meeting to determine if the accusation should be investigated. The matter was defeated by the City Council. No further investigation into the allegations would be taken. With just two days left to vote, both candidates are free to roam the city in search of voters. That should be the end of the story. But it is not.
Now the most trending aspect of the election is the race card. Although what appeared to be vindication for the mayor by the City Council vote, the mayor said she felt like the process “was an attempt to publicly and politically lynch me.”
Anytime the word lynching is used, it stirs cultural emotions. It has only a negative connotation. The mere use of that word could effectively but divisively conjure up Black rage.
If race was not a factor four years ago during the same mayoral contest when there was a Black female candidate and a White female candidate, why would it matter now?
If the donors of the alleged improper campaign donations were not Black, the whole race issue becomes moot. It’s Black History Month. Like the allegations itself, it’s time to make the race card history.
The primary election will produce one female and one male candidate. Let’s cross our proverbial fingers that no one plays the gender card. May the best candidates win on merit. Win with hard work. Win with character. Win with personality.
There is an often used refrain that God don’t like ugly. Well, neither do voters.