A corrupt councilman has just died, leaving a city council seat to be filled. Fran, head of the all white 51st political ward, chooses Tommy - an all around good guy, party loyalist and, most importantly, close friend of the deceased - to fill the seat. He chooses him above Doug, a well-educated, fast-talking, up-and-comer with strong support from the area's growing Black districts. Doug has been waiting for this post for years, and when the opportunity arises to reveal a past indiscretion of Tommy's, he takes it, under the guise of saving Tommy embarrassment in the public eye.
Politics is an intricate system however, and Fran sees Doug's ploy as betrayal, after the many years of support. Fran tricks Doug into revealing his true feelings about power and Black and White politics, the catch being that Doug was caught on tape. Doug threatens to reveal the closed-door workings of the ward become moot when Fran holds the damaging tape. A Black "outsider" is then picked to fill the spot, signaling a change and so much more.