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Behind Mayor Daley’s Decision Not to Run

Thomas F. Roeser 8 September 2010 2 Comments

What led Richard M. Daley to his decision not to run again? The right answer is probably contained in these guesses. Maybe a mixture of them.

1. Maggie Daley’s health. For the first time in a long time the media cameras have focused on her fixedly. Before this we’ve gotten glimpses of her leaving the hospital and in a few seconds of viewing she looked virtually the same. But standing by her husband at the rostrum, it’s clear she has lost weight and…always charming…looks exactly like she is—a cancer patient whose disease has spread to her lungs and liver (although her doctor says it is under control). Standing at the rostrum as Daley made his announcement, she looked easily 10 years older than he…a change when the two have been photographed together earlier.

2. The Next Four Years Will be No Fun. Had Chicago gotten the 2016 Olympics, it would likely have given new zest and life to the Daley administration. Infrastructure would begin soon on clearing land and launching heavy construction which would have started immediately to provide jobs, contracts and lush consultancies…the lifeblood of politics… that would have more than repaid themselves in massive financial support. Now, with the dream of the Olympics gone, the coming years are going to see cutbacks, likely tax hikes, angry labor organizations, hot movement politics where protagonists smell blood in the water. Besides which Daley’s low support for reelection might well stir serious opposition from either Right or Left.

3. The phenomenal anti-incumbent tenor of the country might trigger a spirited campaign here…more than a 68-year-old needs at this time of his life. . Chicago has always been an exception to whirlwind emotional “dump the incumbent” strategy but the quick reverses of polls throughout the country where incumbents are first judged far ahead and than in a twinkling of an eye can be defeated—even if massive funding is on their side—might well presage revolution. If you add this to the two points above, you can see where a reasonable man might make his decision the way Daley has.

4. A massive scandal is coming which might lead to legal action, embarrassment and humiliation. Chicago under Daley has never been free of large-scale scandal…Hired Trucks…patronage abuses…family contractual favoritism…where Daley confessed…strangely…he has no control. Patrick Fitzgerald lurks in the wings.
A cabinet office might be in the offing. But that is hardly likely since
it looks like Obama will be history after 2012 and will have no cabinet office to give.
Bill Daley may have remonstrated to his brother that it’s his turn.

He’s been in the wings and interested in running for office but the time has never been right but when you look at it he’s a natural for Chicago: successful businessman, former cabinet officer, more articulate and sophisticated. A low probability but still…

The Successor?

Make no mistake about it, Rahm Emanuel is not necessarily a shoo-in successor. He’s far more accepted as a serious candidate by the national media odds-makers than with key elements of The Squid. Granted he can raise big bucks but–. The brash, brutish, insensitive pushyness that has characterized him reflected itself when a few months ago he lofted trial balloons about his interest in the mayoralty was not exactly geared to further ingratiate him with the Daleys.

Besides, chief of staff of the Obama administration has not exactly covered him with glory. His famous reliance on the F-word, his deposit of a dead fish on somebody’s bed, his “who me?’ answer to the water department payrollers who helped elect him to Congress the first time… and the thousand-and-one stories about this guy who is the walking embodiment of “What makes Sammy run?”…Cassius with the lean and hungry look…don’t contribute to a launching pad for a mayoral campaign. But expect him to run, there’s very little doubt about that.

The more logical one to my mind would be another Irishman—Jim Houlihan. The Irish have long had dibs on the mayoralty here and it’s a question whether they won’t try again. Houlihan can raise money, too. The job of Cook county assessor has always been…pardon the expression…golden for money-raising. Houlihan has been thinking about this for quite a while and beyond Mike Madigan doesn’t have many enemies. And being an enemy of Madigan with the legislature and Illinois in chaos isn’t the worst credential in the world. And no, I think it’s clear that Mike’s daughter Lisa wants to be governor, not mayor.

If they’re looking for a brilliant public relations candidate, there’s Sheriff Tom Dart. He has the best image, the best TV profile of them all: lean, smart, witty , handsome, a law enforcement professional, good family man, young…and Irish. Dart will be reelected this November 2 over a Republican nonentity…I had to look it up, he’s Frederick Collins… and be ready to file for mayor the next month. But Dart is not exactly the kind of guy who would throw caution to the winds and run an insurgency campaign. You’d expect Dart to run if most of the Squid godfathers got together and urged him to run. But on the other hand, what has he to lose? He will have been reelected handily this November and his prospective run for the mayoralty will showcase his reelection by a landslide over Collins which otherwise would have been a ho-hum.

You say I’ve forgotten about the blacks and Hispanics. No, I’m sure everybody’s all-time black candidate will run—State Sen. and Rev. James Meeks of Chicago. A black caucus favorite may also. Then, too, probably U. S. Rep. Luis (Little Looie) Guterriez and perhaps others…maybe Anita Alverez and a host of aldermen probably including Sandy Jackson. The Irish will cheer and say the more minority candidates the better.

Then There’s an Independent Republican Possibility.

If it is true that Chicagoans are as sick of old-line pols that the nation is, they might…just might…be interested in electing a businessman-philanthropist as mayor and breaking the 78-year ownership of the mayoralty by Dems, a tenure that has far outlasted the USSR…which some say has been only slightly less authoritarian. True the mayoralty election is non-partisan which just might make this candidate uniquely palatable in that he wouldn’t have to run on the Republican label, hateful to many of the unenlightened.

He is a multi-millionaire, a Republican by party ID but also identified with entrepreneurship and good government…and in fact is known to many Democrats because as a public-spirited civic booster he has served in many unpaid capacities. I’m thinking of Ron Gidwitz…who in this nonpartisan election could would truthfully be labeled an independent—free of the old ties. Yes, he ran for governor as a Republican and didn’t do well but not because he had no ideas…but because he’s not a schmoozer and back scratcher, not craven. He’s an urban intellectual, laconic and a purveyor of straight talk. And I mean straight talk. But perhaps in this new era he may well be what the doctor ordered. He’s not tied to special interests and isn’t beholden to fat cat developers for campaign funds.

He is a policy wonk and a courageous one as well. He lost for governor because he doesn’t have the pander-bear skills of a practiced pol. Well, I’ll tell you: If he would run, the city would have a great option…one that could bring a problem-solver to City Hall…a guy with the guts of Chris Christie the phenomenal governor of New Jersey. Generally a moderate Republican but one with the guts and independence to say no-no-no.

He and I don’t always see eye to eye on certain issues which he can use as a recommendation running for mayor of Chicago—and if it helps him I’ll even attack him! But I have known him for years…worked with him closely on numerous campaigns including Kirk Dillard’s run for governor…and have great respect for his integrity and brilliant brainpower. Think of him serving maybe one term…think of him as a reformer. Think of him working to restore jobs to Chicago.


Tom Roeser is the Chairman of the Editorial Board of the Chicago Daily Observer

Ron Gidwitz is the Chairman of the Board of the Chicago Daily Observer


  • Pat Hickey said:

    In Henry IV Part One – Prince Hal is asked,”What do the meteor’s portend?”

    Not having gone to De La LSalle Institute( The Mighty Meteors) Home to Most of Chicago’s Mayors, Prince Hal offered –

    “Hot Livers and Cold Purses.”

    That, Boys and Girls, signals what awaits the next – very short-lived Chicago Mayor – Drunkeness ( with Power, Vanity, or Virture?) and Poverty.

    The candidate who steps up must either be an Iron Man or a Victim – a willing one on both scores.

  • Jim Ridings said:

    Regarding Obama being gone in 2012 — nothing would please me more than to see Obama defeated. But remember the old political axiom, You can’t beat somebody with nobody. Obama polls poorly against unnamed GOP candidates, but does better when a specific candidate is named. It has always been this way. Look at who the GOP picks, people like Bob Dole and John McCain! Unless the GOP stops dragging the nursing homes and funeral parlors for candidates, we can expect more of B. Hussein Obama!

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