Urban League conference: the perfect time to kick off a Senate campaign?

There's been no official word yet on whether Chicago Urban League President Cheryle Jackson will formally announce a run for the U.S. Senate in 2010, but the Urban League's national conference--which kicks off today in Chicago--could make for an excellent stage to do so.

The timing could be ideal for Jackson. An announcement during the National Urban League conference would come just days following the formal announcements of Illinois Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias, a Democrat, and U.S. Rep. Mark Kirk, a Republican, to pursue the seat currently held by U.S. Sen. Roland Burris, who will not run for that office in 2010.

The stage could also be ideal for Jackson, who will get plenty of face time as the leader of the host chapter. The conference is sure to generate a buzz with business, civic and political leaders scsheduled to appear including Earvin "Magin" Johnson, the Rev. Jesse L. Jackson Sr. and Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley. The conference will also serve as a stage for the Chicago Urban League's turnaround and focus on economic empowerment--accomplishments that could serve as the cornerstones of her campaign.

Many believe Jackson can make a strong case for the seat, given her knowledge of the political landscape in Illinois, the remarkable job she's done with the Urban League and her engaging personality.

Some have labeled it the "black seat"--three of the last four individuals to hold the seat are also African Americans: Carol Moseley-Braun, President Barack Obama and Sen. Roland Burris--but winning statewide elections for federal and state administratives offices has never been easy for black politicians.

Presently, Burris is the only black member of the U.S. Senate. Aside from Obama and Moseley-Braun, Edward Brooke of Massachusetts is the only other African American to be elected to the U.S. Senate since World War II. Burris was appointed to his seat by former Gov. Rod Blagojevich and will not seek the seat in 2010.

Nationwide, less than 40 African Americans served in statewide federal or administrative elected office between 1963 and 2007. Winning those elections has been challenging for African Americans, even those from Illinois who've served in the U.S. Senate.

Burris was the first African Americans to be elected to a statewide administrative office, but he failed to win much support from non-black voters in his failed Democratic primary bids for U.S. Senate and governor.

Obama enjoyed widespread support in his successful run for the U.S. Senate in 2004 and for president in 2008. Howvever, Obama actually lost more counties than he won in Illinois last November, and he lost a third of the precincts in a longstanding pro-Democratic ward--potential signs that race might still be a barrier for some voters.

After a rocky term as senator, Carol Moseley-Braun's support withered in downstate counties when she sought re-election in 1998.

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