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Hey Hey, Will Chicago Candidates Wait Till Next Year to Oppose Daley?

Russ Stewart 6 August 2010 3 Comments

Chicago Cubs legend Ernie Banks’ perpetual lament was “wait until next year.” Allies of embattled Chicago Mayor Rich Daley are utilizing a similar argument: “Wait until 2015.” They say: Don’t oppose the mayor in 2011. Instead, wait to run in 2015, when Daley will retire.

Hence, the legion of mayoral wannabes are in a quandary: Is Daley beatable in 2011? Is it worth the risk to oppose him?

If Daley commits to run in 2011 and to quit in 2015, then it behooves the politically astute contenders to take a pass in 2011, letting Daley win a final term.

But if Daley is beatable in 2011, then potential successors must consider the consequences of vacillation: If they don’t run, a rival may win the job, and they’ll never be mayor.

In Chicago, the mayoralty is not just the top of the heap. It is the ruler of the universe. It is every politician’s dream job. And if the occupant is astute, it is a lifetime sinecure.

Who will the next mayor? Daley, age 68, will serve likely his final term if he wins in 2011. In the past 79 years, since 1931, Chicago has had nine mayors, three of whom exhibited extraordinary durability: Ed Kelly (1932-47); the elder Richard J. Daley (1955-76); and the younger Richard M. Daley (1989-present). In the 55 years since 1955, a Bridgeport resident has been mayor for 44. When King Richard II retires, the only obvious dynastic replacements are brother Bill, a former U.S. Commerce Secretary, and son Patrick ,who serves in the U.S. military.

The election for municipal offices is Feb. 22, 2011. The filing period is Nov. 15-22. Candidates can circulate nominating petitions after Aug. 24. To run for mayor, a minimum of 12,500 signatures is required.

Chicago has 1,444,277 registered voters. In 2007, turnout was just 447,571, and Daley won with 318,578 votes (71 percent). He had 347,698 votes (79 percent) in 2003, 418,211 votes (72 percent) in 1999, 350,785 votes (60 percent) in 1995, 450,155 votes (71 percent) in 1991, and 574,619 votes (56 percent) when he first won in 1989. From 1983 to 2007, turnout in mayoral elections has declined by 840,531, from a peak of 1,288,102 in 1983. In 2007, just 22 percent of the registered votes backed Daley.

In Chicago’s post-Daley era, the “3/300 Rule” applies. That means any mayoral contender needs $3 million and a base of 300,000 votes to have a chance to win. At present, Daley has $1.48 million in his account. Emerging 2011 candidates against Daley are Jay Stone, Fred White, Dock Walls, and Alderman Scott Waguespack (32nd). None are imposing. But the 2011 election will be a referendum on Daley, if he runs. And, tactically, Daley won’t announce his intentions until early November, which means the field is frozen.

Who will succeed Daley?

This column has created an “electability index” (see adjoining chart). Criteria include name recognition, fundraising capability, deliverable political base, the potential to expand beyond that base, and hunger for the job. On a scale of one-to-10, with one being non-existent and 10 being astounding, every potential candidate is rated. Accruing more than 40 points makes it a metaphysical certainty that he or she will be the next mayor; accruing less than 20 points – well, it’s an utter impossibility.

Here’s a brief “scouting report” on the 22 contenders listed in the chart, including age, job, cash-on-hand as of July 1, strengths, weaknesses, and rating:

Lisa Madigan, 44, is Illinois’ very competent attorney general, has trans-racial appeal to women voters, and has $4.4 million; plus, father Mike Madigan’s Southwest Side campaign organization will deliver. But she wants to be governor, and will run in 2014, especially if Bill Brady (R) is elected in 2010. If Pat Quinn (D) wins, and is a tax-hiking disaster, Madigan may look elsewhere. If she runs for mayor, she wins. Rating: 36.

James Meeks, 54, a black South Side state senator, has $71,800; he is pastor of the Salem Baptist Church, which has the largest congregation in Chicago. Meeks seeks education “reform,” a state tax hike, and supports school vouchers to allow parents the choice to send their children to private schools – which intrigues whites and conservatives. Meeks’ appeal is cerebral, not racial. He will co-opt most of the black vote. He’s the man to watch. Rating: 33.

Bill Daley, 62, the mayor’s brother, took a pass on bids for senator and governor. But, should the mayor’s popularity persist through his next term, he might opt for a dynasty, making Bill the 2015 placeholder until Patrick is ready With his brand name, fundraising capacity, and “comfort factor,” brother Bill rates a 35.

Tom Dart, 48, is the county sheriff, and has $216,155 on-hand. Dart made national headlines when he suspended evictions on foreclosed apartment buildings, and has tried to upgrade security at County Jail – compassionate but tough on crime. His base is in the southwest side 19th Ward, but has appeal to blacks and liberals. If elected, he could serve a couple of decades. Rating: 34.

Rahm Emanuel, 50, President Obama’s chief-of-staff, was a three-term Chicago congressman and onetime Daley aide. His appeal is to Jewish voters, who are barely five percent of the population; but he has over $3 million. Emanuel has been tepid in his advocacy of Israel, and has the personality of a prune. He’s not saleable, despite his Obama tie. Rating: 30.

Jesse Jackson Jr., 45, the South Side black congressman. Two words: It’s over. Sunk by the Good Ship Blagojevich. Because of his black base, he rates a 30.

Luis Gutierrez, 54, the firebrand Puerto Rican congressman from the near North Side; he has $522,000. Chicago’s Hispanic base is under 20 percent, and Gutierrez has negligible appeal to whites. But he lusts after the job, and could get 15-20 percent. Rating: 31.

Toni Preckwinkle, 63, the black Hyde Park alderman who is about to become the next county board president, controls her own destiny: If she is effective in her new post, shows “reformist” zeal, cuts spending, is resoundingly re-elected in 2014, and is the only woman and only black running for mayor in 2015, then she wins. Lots of “ifs.” Rating: 28.

Dan Hynes, 42, the outgoing state comptroller and potential has-been. In his 2010 primary against Quinn, Hynes got 154,657 votes in Chicago (45.4 percent), spending $4.4 million. Hynes’ base is in the 19th Ward, long run by his father, Tom Hynes. He has $17,000. His wooden style is poisonous. Rating: 32 and falling.

Jim Houlihan, 67, another 19th Ward product, with a Lakefront base, is outgoing county assessor. He has $221,670. His only chance: Run in 2011 as the anti-Daley alternative. By 2015, he’ll be dust. Rating: 33.

Ed Burke, 66, has been the 14th Ward’s alderman since 1969, when he assumed his father’s seat at age 25. How about this: Elect another dynastic legacy, a 41-year “insider” alderman, and a lawyer who has gotten rich representing clients doing business with the city? Sounds like the ticket to success. Burke has $6.18 million. That alone, and if he faces a black or Gutierrez, earns him a 32.

Joe Berrios (D) and Forrest Claypool (Independent) are running for assessor, Berrios is county Democratic chairman, a powerhouse in North Side Hispanic wards, a Board of Review commissioner, and will spend $2 million. Claypool, outgoing county commissioner and former Daley aide, will spend $1.5 million. The winner will be a major player in the post-Daley era: Berrios as putative kingmaker, and perhaps making himself king; Claypool as the “independent” dragon-slayer, seizing the “reform” mantle. Claypool rates 33, and Berrios 29; but the November loser will rate zero.

Mike Quigley, 51, former county commissioner and Claypool ally, was elected congressman in 2009. If Claypool falters, Quigley is ready. Rating: 27.

Aldermen make horrific mayoral candidates. Their identity is local. They have no citywide contacts. But in Pat O’Connor (40th), Tom Allen (38th), Bob Fioretti (2nd), Brendan Reilly (42nd), Joe Moore (49th) and Tom Tunney (44th), hope springs eternal. They all have the capability of raising $1 million. Allen and O’Connor, both Northwest Siders, have run countywide. Tunney would provoke a huge gay vote. All are pro-Daley aldermen. None will win. All rate in the 20s.

And finally, there’s two Quixotic anti-Daley contenders: Former city Inspector General David Hoffman and Alderman Scott Waguespack (32nd). They rate 28 and 18, respectively.


Russ Stewart is a political analyst for The Chicago Daily Observer

image the rational exuberant Mr. Cub, Ernie Banks


  • dmlawyer said:

    Rev. James Meeks does not live in Chicago.
    He lives in a spectacular home out in South Holland and thus cannot be Mayor of Chicago.

    Do a little homework Russ …..

  • Mark S. Allen said:

    Rev. Meeks bought a home in South Holland for his parents, but Chicago neighbors still sees meeks going in and out of his Chicago redience connected to his original Salem Baptist Church on 118th & Indiana, so the real truth to Meeks official residency lies with The Chicago Board of Elections.

  • dmlawyer said:

    So that is why public records search has Jamel Meeks address as the South Holland location ? His wife lives with her in laws ?

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