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Some Black Chicagoans Hit by Crime Consider Skipping Midterm Elections

15 of the largest 16 US cities are run by Dem administrations. Chicago leads the group in our government, selling out the poor and promoting their own interests. Did I mention Jessie Jackson and Al Sharpton? They're worse!


Many Black residents of Austin, a neighborhood on the West Side of Chicago, expressed doubts that how they vote would do much to solve the city’s crime problem.


Some Black Chicagoans Hit by Crime Consider Skipping Midterm Elections

Republicans see disillusioned voters as path to upset in Illinois governor’s race, though many Democrats remain reluctant to switch parties

By Joshua Jamerson and Chad Day, WSJ


Sept. 28, 2022 5:30 am ET


CHICAGO—Many Black voters in some of Chicago’s most violent neighborhoods are frustrated that Democrats haven’t curbed persistent crime or fixed the economic problems that underpin it, prompting some to weigh sitting out upcoming elections.


The Republican effort to win the Illinois governor’s race this fall has centered on calling for more police officers and blaming Democrats for violent crime in Chicago, which last year had one of its worst years since the 1990s before some types of crimes receded this year. Republican aides and strategists said they wouldn’t come close to winning deep-blue areas of the state such as Chicago but that they hoped to chip away at the Democratic advantage in the city, which could be achieved if some voters stay home.


The far West Side neighborhood of Austin is part of a swath of neighborhoods on Chicago’s South and West sides where longstanding crime worsened during the Covid-19 pandemic. Murders jumped in 2020, and while reported shootings are down this year compared with last year, people who live in the neighborhood say they still occur too often, generally between rival cliques and street gangs. For the year through early September, more vehicles were reported stolen in Austin than during the same period in any of the previous four years, according to city data.


Black Chicagoans say they are skeptical that Chicago’s violent crime problem will be addressed based on votes they cast this fall or next year, when Democratic Mayor Lori Lightfoot is up for re-election. Some said their frustration with what they described as Democrats’ lack of support for business development and other economic initiatives has left them disillusioned with the political process. Republican policies to bolster employment opportunities and law enforcement appeal to some Black voters, though many remain reluctant to back GOP candidates because they disagree with them on other issues and dislike their affiliation with former President Donald Trump.


“Neither politician, Republican or Democrat, represents the interests of the Black people,” said Anthony Young, a 26-year-old Black man, in explaining why he doesn’t plan to vote this fall.


Illinois trails only Pennsylvania—home to one of the nation’s most competitive Senate races—in the number of political advertisements aired this election cycle that are focused on or mention crime, according to an analysis by The Wall Street Journal of data from the ad-tracking firm AdImpact. The ads helped make the Illinois GOP gubernatorial primary the most expensive such contest in the U.S. The winner, Darren Bailey, is facing Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker, who is heavily favored. The governor hasn’t ruled out a run for president in 2024 if President Biden declines to run.


Mr. Young said he moved out of Austin to find safer surroundings but returns to see relatives and friends.


On a recent summer day, he stood on a street corner talking to longtime resident Ronald Talley, 59. Mr. Talley said he felt disillusioned with the political system. Although he has voted for Democrats in the past, he now said he wondered whether voting was worth it. “Crime is right here,” he said, pointing to vacant blocks. “No businesses.”


He said the lack of an economic powerhouse on the city’s West Side sows desperation among some young people and makes crime seem like the only option for survival.


A main drag in Austin leads into the more affluent Oak Park neighborhood; the tree-lined streets of the bordering suburb mark a clear boundary with Austin’s streets, which are barren in some parts. In certain blocks in and around Austin, roughly 40% of residents have incomes below the poverty line, compared with roughly 12% statewide, federal data shows. The population in some parts of Austin fell 6% between 2010 and 2020, while it was virtually flat statewide.


“The politicians [are] not going to do it,” Mr. Talley said of bringing economic opportunity to Chicago’s West Side. “Joe Biden, he ain’t gonna do it.”


“What’s the governor[‘s] name?” Mr. Talley asked Mr. Young.


“J.B. Pritzker,” said Mr. Young.


“He ain’t gonna do it,” Mr. Talley responded. “What’s the mayor[‘s] name?”


“Lori Lightfoot.”


“She ain’t gonna do it.”


Mr. Talley moved onto the local alderman before concluding that none of them were going to change the area. “I’m so disappointed,” Mr. Talley said. “It’s like I’m just throwing my vote away.”


Representatives for Ms. Lightfoot said that other cities also saw crime surge during the pandemic, and that Chicago’s homicide trajectory was headed downward from its 2020 level. Aides credited city investments toward community safety, such as earmarking $85 million over three years toward violence-prevention efforts. Christina Freundlich, a Lightfoot spokeswoman, said that curbing crime with economic investments wouldn’t be swiftly accomplished, and that the mayor thought that a “holistic approach is what’s necessary to truly address the underlying drivers of violence—poverty, neglect, and a lack of economic opportunity.”


Mr. Bailey has made Chicago’s crime rates a centerpiece of his campaign, calling the city a “hellhole” that Ms. Lightfoot and Mr. Pritzker have failed to clean up.


“The Democrat Party for years [has] come into these communities, they’ve come into these churches, and they’ve made promises” that they haven’t kept, he said in an interview this summer.


Mr. Bailey’s campaign proposals to reduce crime largely focus on law enforcement, such as increasing state penalties for car-jackings by minors and setting up a $125 million fund to hire and retain cops in the state. An aide said any path to victory would need to include eroding Mr. Pritzker’s advantage in Chicago, including slightly among Black voters.


The Latino population recently pulled ahead of the Black population in overall size in Chicago, though Blacks still have an edge in the voting-age population, according to the 2020 census. Nationally, Latino voters, another long-standing core Democratic constituency, shifted away from Democratic candidates in the 2020 presidential election, including in Illinois. That makes Black residents a key part of Democrats’ electoral chances.


Control of Congress is up for grabs and candidates are eager to sway voters heading into November. WSJ’s Joshua Jamerson explains how Republicans and Democrats are framing the debate around key issues like the economy, abortion, gun violence, immigration and student loan forgiveness. Photo illustration: Laura Kammermann

Mr. Pritzker drew praise from Democratic Party officials for his comments against gun violence after the deadly shooting at a July Fourth parade in Highland Park, Ill., outside of Chicago.


A spokeswoman for Mr. Pritzker, who declined an interview request, said the governor had invested in public-safety programs, including by signing legislation that toughened gun-access laws and expanding access for mental healthcare and substance abuse treatment.


“Governor Pritzker is deeply committed to the health and safety of all Illinoisans,” the spokeswoman, Natalie Edelstein, said in a statement.


Pastor John Harrell of New Hope Baptist Church, just outside Austin, runs Black Men United, a nonprofit that has received hundreds of thousands of dollars in state funding for workforce training programs during Mr. Pritzker’s first term. He said the money allowed his group to help place more than two dozen teenagers and young adults in summer jobs as part of its effort to reduce street violence.



Pastor John Harrell backs Gov. J.B. Pritzker for re-election but said he understood why many in Austin feel disconnected from politics.

“There was a time when only old folks passed and died,” Mr. Harrell said. “But now I’m doing more funerals for our youth than ever before.”


Mr. Harrell said Mr. Pritzker was a better choice than Mr. Bailey, though he understands why some people in his neighborhood feel politically disenfranchised. “What goes on in the community, I’m kind of immune to it. I’m 51. I’ve been in the hood all my life,” Mr. Harrell said. “But what I also say is: When you’re low, that’s when you should use your voice.”


On the city’s South Side, Pastor Corey Brooks, who founded the violence-intervention group Project HOOD and New Beginnings Church of Chicago, wants state and city officials to reduce crime by opening more pathways to high-paying jobs. His organization puts on an entrepreneurship workshop and connects residents with training for construction jobs.


For years, Mr. Brooks has been quietly advocating to people who live in the largely Black Woodlawn and Englewood neighborhoods that strong family structure, self-responsibility and free-market capitalism—what he described as core conservative principles—can yield better outcomes for his community, which votes overwhelmingly Democratic.



Pastor Corey Brooks, who has slept in a tent to bring attention to problems on the streets of Chicago’s South Side, votes Republican.

With crime and inflation both high, he thought this might be the year to persuade people around him to vote Republican as he does. He has thus far been proved wrong, he said.


“I think they could do a better job in helping to come up with some of these solutions,” Mr. Brooks said of conservatives. “I think they’re missing out on a great opportunity.”


Mr. Brooks invited Mr. Bailey to visit his crime-prevention organization.


TJ Grooms, an associate pastor at New Beginnings Church, said he met Mr. Bailey during the visit and gave him credit for coming. However, Mr. Grooms said he planned to vote for Democrats this fall because he felt they were the lesser of two evils.


“I don’t really see the Democratic Party as a job generator,” Mr. Grooms said. “There’s no programming that can essentially say: here’s a job, here’s some money that goes toward trades in the Black community, here’s training for electric, plumbing, all those different kinds of things.”


Brian Alexander, an aide to Mr. Brooks, said he had a political awakening this year. He had been a straight-ticket Democratic voter and worked for Democratic politicians. Mr. Alexander said his belief that he could never support any Republican changed when he returned from living elsewhere and saw his childhood neighborhood of Englewood had stagnated. He blames Democratic policies that, in his view, made residents dependent on public aid.


“As much as I thought being on the left—they’re the bad guys and we’re the good guys—I realized you need competition within the market,” Mr. Alexander said. “Right now in Chicago, there’s no competition in the political market, so the consumer is suffering.”



Pastor Corey Brooks, in blue, founded a violence-intervention group, Project HOOD. Brian Alexander, right, an aide to Mr. Brooks and a former straight-ticket Democratic voter, said he now was open to backing some GOP candidates.

Mr. Alexander earlier this year supported and worked for Richard Irvin, the Republican mayor of Chicago suburb Aurora, Ill. Mr. Irvin, who is Black, lost the primary to Mr. Bailey. Mr. Alexander said he planned to vote for Mr. Pritzker despite his misgivings with Democrats because Mr. Bailey accepted Mr. Trump’s endorsement.


Lois Parker, an Englewood resident in her 60s who attends New Beginnings, said she planned to keep backing Democrats, including Ms. Lightfoot.


“She’s not doing anything worse than any of the other mayors have,” she said. Ms. Lightfoot, she noted, didn’t create Chicago’s crime problem.


Write to Joshua Jamerson at joshua.jamerson@wsj.com and Chad Day at chad.day@wsj.com

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