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Shirley Coleman, alderman of the 16th Ward, is in a tough reelection campaign. She's been dogged by allegations that she flip-flopped on the big-box minimum-wage ordinance under pressure from Mayor Daley and that she took money from a friend who was involved in an aborted development deal in the ward. “Despite what has been written, I have not sold out my community,” Coleman told me last week.
According to state records, one of her opponents, JoAnn Thompson, has received more than $30,000 in staffing, direct mail, campaign research, and phone banking from the Service Employees International Union. Another opponent, the long-controversial Hal Baskin, is a talented organizer and received the Sun-Times’s endorsement.
Coleman says she helped sustain Daley’s veto of the big box ordinance because voters told her they didn’t want her to reject retail jobs for the ward. She also says she's asked the mayor’s campaign committee for money to help with her campaign. “I haven’t received it,” she says, adding that the union is sending out regular mailings attacking her. “I’m [practically] being blamed for high gas prices over here.”
Jerry Morrison, executive director of SEIU’s Illinois State Council, has a theory about why Coleman hasn’t received any money from Daley or the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce. The mayor, he says, has received millions of dollars in support from Chicago’s business community and isn’t likely to spend much of it in his reelection bid, saving it instead to help aldermen in races where no candidate gets a majority, forcing an April runoff: “The mayor’s going to go to these aldermen and say, ‘You’re in trouble—I can protect you from the unions.’ Essentially the mayor is handling the business community’s money.” Daley’s campaign didn’t return a call for comment.