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Through the Years with the Remarkable Phil Krone

Don Rose 31 August 2010 One Comment

I’ve known Phil Krone for nearly five decades, through which we began as political allies, became opponents, occasionally found common cause but remained good humored friends through it all, right up to the end.

He was never a man to underestimate himself—or me, fortunately, though our personalities were dramatically different. As different as our politics once Phil abandoned the reform coalition of independent Democrats and liberal Republicans that fought the old Daley Machine from the mid-60s onward.

He was around doing his thing in a successful campaign to elect Richard Ogilvie as president of the Cook County Board in 1966—the last GOPster to hold the job. He also was there when I was running Bernard Carey’s campaign that unseated Edward V. Hanrahan as states attorney.

What was his thing? Ideas, ideas, ideas. A professional political kibitzer who got to know everyone and everybody. Meeting people and getting them together was almost an art for for Phil. His ideas were always interesting but not always useful.

As one legislator told me, “Phil is a guy you tie up in the basement and tell him to start spewing ideas…wait for a hundred and if you’re a good politician you’ll throw most away but find a gem you can use.”

I don’t know exactly why he went over to the dark side—the machine that is—maybe just the frustration of losing as a Republican, maybe business—though he was an honest man—and maybe he just had a true conversion on the road to City Hall.

He became close to the Daley and Hynes families, presumably offering a selection of ideas, and to this day I don’t know whether they viewed him as a full-fledged, campaign-mapping consultant or a version of the guy you tie up in the basement. Needless to say, the friendships did not harm his real-estate consulting business.

We had a great adventure together in the run-up to the 1992 New Hampshire presidential primary. Mike Royko came up with the notion of drafting Mario Cuomo for president with a write-in campaign. He created a committee to do the job. He appointed Phil chairman and me political director—loving the idea of the “liberal reformer” and the machine stalwart working together. We spent a month or so in New Hampshire—Phil recruiting people all around the state, me making literature and TV spots. We got a lot of attention but very few write-ins.

I had a distinct sense through the years that one of his hopes was someday to bring me over to one or the other Daley’s side—sort of a trophy—which never happened. Periodically he would call me with the notion that if I would back such and such a machine candidate it would aid immeasurably by stamping that candidate as legitimate. I was assured that one or the other Daley would never forget my kindness. He subtly hinted that a Daley had sent him as an emissary, but I think it was all typical idea-man Krone’s free-lanceing.

I did endorse a Daley-backed candidate for him once a couple of years ago and he used my name prominently in an ad. The candidate was his wonderful wife Joan, running for a judgeship. She won handily. No doubt due to my endorsement—and a.bit of help from the machine and idea-man Phil.


Don Rose is a regular columnist at the Chicago Daily Observer

One Comment »

  • Dan Kelley said:

    Thanks for sharing this wonderful remembrance of an interesting and unusual friend and sometime colleague. Phil Krone was a character and a decidedly colorful individual.

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