*Illinois state Sen. James Meeks withdrew his candidacy for Chicago mayor on Thursday, and he urged other African-American candidates to follow his lead and rally what he called a divided black community around a single candidate.

The surprise Christmas week announcement came a day after he met to discuss the idea of a unity candidate from the city’s large African-American community with fellow Democratic candidates U.S. Rep. Danny Davis and former U.S. Sen. Carol Moseley Braun, both of whom are black.

“My friends, I come before you today to say that our city – and our community – is divided,” Meeks said in a statement. “As long as our community remains divided and splintered – to the specific advantage of the front-running, status quo candidates – we will never see things improve. We need to speak with one voice.”

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