Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Amara Enyia runs for mayor! Wait, who?

Posted By on 05.21.14 at 04:39 PM

Amara Enyia—a 31-year-old community activists with all of $650 in her coffers—takes on our $7 million mayor.
  • Courtesy of Amara Enyia
  • Amara Enyia—a 31-year-old community activists with all of $650 in her coffers—takes on our $7 million mayor.

By all conventional wisdom, Amara Enyia hasn't a chance of getting elected mayor, so she shouldn't even try.

I mean, let's see—she's a 31-year-old urban-affairs consultant, currently employed by the Austin Chamber of Commerce, who lives in Garfield Park, and has never run for office, much less served. Plus she has a hard-to-pronounce name that virtually no one, outside of friends and family, has heard of.

At the moment she has all of $650 in her campaign treasure chest. In contrast, Mayor Emanuel has more than $7 million.

After she let it be known that she was thinking of running against Mayor Emanuel, no less an authority than former alderman and UIC political science professor Dick Simpson told the Huffington Post that "she has no chance" and "she is not a viable candidate."

Hard to argue with that.

So this is where I should, like Simpson, tell her to take a reality pill and run for something a little lower on the political food chain—like alderman.

But you know me—I love an underdog.

So what the hell: Run, Amara, run! And here's hoping that many others will join the race.

She certainly has a compelling backstory that separates her from the crowd.

Her parents—Samuel and Irene—were born and raised in Nigeria. Her father fought for Biafra in the Nigerian Civil War.

They moved to the United States in the 1970s. Her father got a PhD and currently teaches in the communications department at Lewis University. Her mother is a clinical psychologist. They raised Amara and her five siblings in University Park, a south suburb.

Obviously, she's one of those high-functioning high achievers.

In 2001 she graduated from Crete-Monee High School, where she played basketball and soccer and ran track.

She went to the University of Illinois at Champaign where she majored in broadcast journalism and was editor in chief of the school newspaper.

Then she got a PhD in educational policy. And then she graduated from Champaign's law school. And then she learned to fly a jet plane—just kidding.

What else . . .

She speaks Igbo, Spanish, French, Portuguese, and English.

She runs about seven miles a day. She's participated in two Ironman competitions—those superinsane triathlons where you swim 2.4 miles, bike 112 miles, and run a marathon.

C'mon, Mayor Emanuel, I know even you—as a triathlete—have got to be impressed with that.

Like Mayor E, she got her start in politics with Mayor Daley. Which I don't hold against either one of them—OK, well, maybe a little.

In Emanuel's case, he was a fund-raiser for the mayor. As for Enyia, Mayor Daley hired her as a policy analyst in 2009.

She swears up and down that she quietly opposed his Olympic plan and secretly cheered when Brazil won the games.

If you say so . . .

After Daley left office, Enyia went to work as executive director of Austin Coming Together, a community group on the west side. And she started Ace Municipal Partners, a consulting firm.

And by last year, disgusted with the direction Emanuel was taking the city, she decided to run for mayor.

"There's not one single thing that Rahm did that made me want to run," she says. "It was an aggregation of things that he'd done. Closing the schools. Closing the mental health clinics. The cuts. The firings.

"Your values to me are the core of who you are. If your values are in line with the people of Chicago, your policies you enact will reflect that. Mayor Emanuel doesn't know what it means to have four kids and get a boot on his car. Obviously, he doesn't know what it's like to get a red-light ticket or speeding ticket, because he doesn't pay them."

By the way, Mr. Mayor—you really should pay those speeding tickets.

My first question for her is the most obvious one: You're not a viable candidate—so why are you running?

"If you're going to say that the only viable candidate is the candidate who can raise $7 million, you are saying there are no viable candidates except for Rahm and we're destined to only have a mayor whose policies reflect a man who raises so much money."

Well, you got to admit, she makes a pretty good point.

"I'm running because I've always been the type of person who espouses the principles I believe in. When you see something is not right, you have a responsibility to do something about it."

This is as good a time as any to mention that we have a runoff election system for mayor.

That means that Mayor E can run against Toni Preckwinkle, Karen Lewis, Bob Fioretti—hell, let's throw Joakim Noah in the race—and if no candidate gets more than 50 percent of the vote, the top two vote getters face off in a runoff.

We've never had a runoff before because too many of you knuckleheads are apparently psychologically incapable of voting for any candidate not named Daley.

Don't worry—I'm sure that condition can be treated.

You have to figure $7 million should be enough to get Mayor Emanuel in the runoff. Though if Karen Lewis and Joakim Noah run all bets are off.

So what the hell—why shouldn't Amara run? Think of it this way—any vote for her is, at the very least, a vote for a runoff.

If nothing else, you might want to check out her official campaign announcement, which she'll be holding at 5:30 PM on June 2 at the Co-Prosperity Sphere (3219 S. Morgan).

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