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Emanuel Bridging Chicago's Racial Divide Emanuel Bridging Chicago's Racial Divide

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Emanuel Bridging Chicago's Racial Divide

Former White House Chief Of Staff Rahm Emanuel testifies in the residency case challenging his eligibility to run for mayor of Chicago December 14, 2010 in Chicago, Illinois. Emanuel must prove that he has resided in Chicago at least one year preceding the election.(Scott Olson/Getty Images)

February 9, 2011

Rahm Emanuel appears poised to win a majority of votes in the Feb. 22 mayoral election to avoid a runoff - and he's been able to achieve that impressive goal through an unlikely source: Winning over the city's African-American voters.

An outright 53 percent majority of African-American voters said they would back Emanuel in the latest Richard Day Research poll commissioned for WLS-TV, even with the presence of a prominent black candidate in the field, former Sen. Carol Moseley Braun. It's a testament to both a weak field and Emanuel's efforts to court black voters, reminding them of his work for President Obama in the White House.

In a city with a history of ethnic and racial voting patterns, Braun attempted to consolidate the black vote to her side - and won the backing of Rep. Danny Davis (D-IL) and state Sen. James Meeks, who initially were running.

Emanuel's old House district wasn't exactly the most diverse: Only three percent of his former constituents in Chicago's North Side were African-American.

But Braun's embattled campaign has failed to excite and mobilize the city's African-American community. And it didn't help that Braun accused Patricia Van Pelt-Watkins, a little-known African-American candidates in the race, of having a history of crack addiction in a candidate debate.

With Braun struggling, Emanuel has not hesitated to court black voters, reminding them of his time in the White House and his connection to Obama. The Emanuel campaign has been running a radio spot featuring Obama praising his former chief of staff, with clips taken from Emanuel's White House farewell ceremony.

With just under two weeks remaining until the election, Braun needs to win over a chunk of the black voters she was expected to easily carry. If not, Emanuel will become mayor of Chicago sooner than most expected.

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