EDGEWATER — Aldermanic candidate Ugo Okere accused Ald. Pat O’Connor (40th) of trying to portray him as a “black boogyman” following Tuesday night’s contentious 40th Ward candidate forum.
Okere’s statement came after Ald. Pat O’Connor (40th) defended his decades-long tenure overseeing the ward. Toward the end of the forum, he got into an argument with Okere about the candidate touting his Nigerian roots in promotional materials.
“Last night, [O’Connor] showed himself, once again, to be out of touch and cruel, sneering at a marginalized group for cheap political points and delivering a racist trope. I am ashamed to call Patrick O’Connor my alderman,” Okere said in a statement released Wednesday afternoon.
Okere is a community organizer of Nigerian descent and the only black candidate in the 40th ward race.
During the forum at Ebenezer Lutheran Church, 1650 W. Foster Ave., on Tuesday, O’Connor made two comments about race that led to boos from attendees and criticism from other candidates and the forum’s moderator.
First, O’Connor said the day the City Council approved the police department’s controversial new training facility and the Obama Presidential Library was “a historic day in the African-American community.”
When Okere challenged O’Connor on this, the incumbent alderman shot back at him over a fundraising flyer.
“This is your fundraising invitation,” O’Connor said to Okere. “It doesn’t talk about community, it talks about building Nigerian power in Chicago. For God’s sake, if you want to talk about being part of a community, and this is how you’re going to raise your money?”
In a statement posted to Twitter Wednesday, Okere said O’Connor’s comments were “racist” and an attempt to cast him “as a black bogeyman, someone who only wants to build power for Nigerians and nobody else.”
“O’Connor sought to divide me from my community and my physical home based on the color of my skin and my heritage. I have been a resident of the 40th ward since I was 9 years old,” Okere said. “I graduated from Chicago Public Schools in the ward, and went on to college in Chicago and have used my passion to give back and organize for the benefit of my community. I am from here.”
Okere’s comments came hours after the moderator of Tuesday’s panel slammed O’Connor on Twitter for the same thing.
Author Rick Perlstein called O’Connor a “racist troll” for his comments aimed at Okere.
O’Connor did not respond to multiple requests for comment. Despite his appearance at the forum, he’s also avoided saying whether or not he plans to run for reelection.
On Tuesday, O’Connor told The Daily Line that he has not yet decided whether to run for another term, but was keeping his options open by attending the forum.
The 40th Ward includes parts of Lincoln Square, Bowmanville, West Ridge, Edgewater and West Andersonville.
Video of the 40th ward candidate forum can be found here.
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