KENWOOD — Candidate Gregory Seal Livingston said Barack Obama weighing in on the 4th Ward aldermanic race in favor of Sophia King is akin to “cheating.”
The Obama endorsement came early Monday morning as the former president’s first act since leaving office and shocked many in the neighborhood as well as the candidates running Feb. 28 special election.
“We all want to win, but let’s do it without cheating,” Livingston said at his campaign office Monday afternoon.
King and her husband, Alan King, are both friends with the Obamas. Livingston and other candidates are criticizing King’s personal connections to the Obamas and lack of political experience prior to being appointed as alderman by Mayor Rahm Emanuel until the special election could be held.
“One of the great problems of Chicago is when friendship trumps responsibility to the citizens,” Livingston said.
He said Obama getting involved in neighborhood politics does a disservice to 4th Ward voters.
“Judge us for who we are, what we’ve done. Judge me for what I’ve done in this city for years. Judge my opponents in the same way,” Livingston said. “In softball, you call that a ringer and that’s unfair.”
Obama in a statement praised King’s work in the community.
“Michelle and I have known Sophia many years as a leader dedicated to improving her community. Over the years, Sophia has worked to make neighborhood schools and communities better,” Obama said in a statement. “Sophia is the type of leader Chicago and the 4th Ward need.”
Livingston shot back that Obama has been out of touch with the issues in the ward for eight years when major changes taken place within city politics, including the election of Emanuel and the shooting death of Laquan McDonald by police.
“He has a right to weigh in as a citizen, but not as a former president,” Livingston said. “He’s an absentee voter, he hasn’t been here, he hasn’t lived through the Laquan McDonald piece.”
Livingston said Obama should focus on being a statesmen and avoid the impression that he’s playing machine politics in Chicago, particularly when there have been two protests in the city in a little over a week in response to actions by Obama’s successor, Donald Trump.
Obama did issue a statement later Monday saying he was heartened by the protests in Chicago and elsewhere.
Previously, Obama in March endorsed Juliana Stratton in the Illinois 5th District House race against Ken Dunkin, at the time the lowest level Illinois political race he had gotten involved in since becoming president.