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LeAlan Jones: From Ghetto Life 101 to Politics 101

Chicago Reader profiles Illinois Green Party US Senate candidate LeAlan Jones:

LeAlan Jones rushes onto the West Chatham Park practice football field and shoves his right outside linebacker: “Why are you waiting for him to come to you?” he demands, then shows the young man how it’s done, squatting into the stance of a linebacker like a velociraptor ready to spring.

Jones, 31, is the Illinois Green Party candidate for U.S. Senate. But while the major party candidates for Barack Obama’s old seat travel the state, shaking hands, kissing babies, and raking in millions of dollars in campaign donations, Jones has spent much of the fall literally on the sidelines, doing what he can to help coach the south side’s state-ranked Simeon High School football team, where the boy he’s raised for the past eight years, junior Robert Gregory, is the star quarterback, and he’s a volunteer linebackers coach.

Shut out of the major debates and frustrated by the lack of traction he’s gained in the black community, Jones says his time is better spent on the football field, where he can work to mold vulnerable teens into responsible young men. “There’s thousands of dollars of scholarship money on that field right now,” he says.

Mark Kirk has raised $12.8 million, Alexi Giannoulias $8.4 million. Jones has yet to reach the $5,000 threshold at which campaign finances must be reported. He recently rode Amtrak coach to Carbondale for a Green Party fund-raiser, which netted him $445. He paid for some flyers and yard signs, and now his campaign is in debt.

Yet he’s a factor in the race, and a trouble spot for Giannoulias in particular. A Chicago Tribune/WGN poll this week showed Kirk leading Giannoulias 44 percent to 41 percent—with Jones getting 5 percent. Despite a lack of support from black leaders, Jones expects to get many of his votes from Chicago’s traditionally Democratic African-American neighborhoods. And he’s undeterred by the possibility that he might play a role in handing Obama’s old seat to the Republicans. “I don’t know how you ‘spoil’ a process that’s already rotten,” he says. “The Democratic Party is just as much a part of the problem in their policies as the Republicans.”

Read the full article at Chicago Reader.

Dave Schwab

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