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11/02/2009

O'Brien's Affirmative Action Plan

    If Metropolitan Water Reclamation Board President Terrence O'Brien wins the democratic primary for Cook County Board President, he's doing what he can now to avoid a racial backlash during the general election campaign.  He's made some key hires to make sure he's able to bridge any racial divide that might occur in the party ranks the day after the primary.

    O'Brien, who has served at the MWRD for 21 years, is the only caucasian candidate in the primary field of five.  The others, including incumbent Todd Stroger, Circuit Clerk Dorothy Brown, Alderman Toni Preckwinkle and U.S. Congressman Danny Davis are African-Americans.  The theory is that the African-American candidates will split the black vote and that O'Brien, winning a huge majority among white voters in the county's suburbs, will carry the day on February 2, 2010.

   The 53 year old businessman is a believer in the theory and why not?   With an unblemished record at the MWRD, a promise to rollback the sales tax, a name like "O'Brien" and running against four blacks he should win monster majorities in those white surburbs.  But if he doesn't get many black votes, and he probably won't, he has to position himself to be able to "heal" the party before the general election.

    Enter DeShana Forney.  Enter John Davis. 

    They are African-American political and media "pros" who have signed on with the O'Brien campaign.    Forney will be the campaign manager.   She worked for the successful first election effort of Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan and until last summer was the director of the Illinois Housing Development Authority.   Davis will be O'Brien's press secretary.  Most Chicago television news viewers remember his 20 years of stellar work as a reporter for WBBM/CBS2.  O'Brien promises more people of color (Latinos, etc) will join his campaign during the coming weeks.

     Make no mistake about it: both Forney and Davis are hired guns. And while O'Brien won't admit it publicly, their race has a lot to do with why these two black people are working for the only white candidate running for county board president.

     Still, there is something refreshing about the fact that O'Brien realizes he has to reach out and do what he can to avoid this election becoming a white vs. black affair.  

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