Everything old is new again?
The former Obama Chief of Staff is tied for the lead in the polling with Cook County Board presidentToni Preckwinkle….
In a race where it was already difficult to get attention, the unexpected emergence of yet another influential Daley, spending millions more than any rival, made it more difficult still. William M. Daley, known to everyone as Bill, is seventy years old, and wealthy from a career in finance. He has also never held elected office, but knows plenty of people who have. He served as White House chief of staff, for Barack Obama, and as Commerce Secretary, for Bill Clinton. He ran the 2000 Presidential campaign of Al Gore, who flew to Chicago this month to endorse him. And then there are his father and his brother—Richard J. Daley and Richard M. Daley—who won a dozen mayoral elections between them. By 2011, they had run the city for forty-three of the previous fifty-six years.
“My friends who knew me, they got it. They weren’t surprised,” Daley told me. The youngest of seven children, he grew up in a household, in the working-class Irish-Catholic neighborhood of Bridgeport, where dinner-table talk routinely turned to city business. “It was always present and big in our lives, this job. We were always, from a young age, talking about or seeing or hearing about the challenges of mayoring and urban living and blah, blah, blah. I’ve been around the town a long time.”
Daley has been around a long time, and so has the candidate leading the polls, Toni Preckwinkle, the seventy-one-year-old Cook County board president and chair of the Cook County Democratic Party. She has the support of the Chicago Teachers Union and the Service Employees International Union, with money and volunteers that could matter in a primary where a few percentage points might be the difference between going to a runoff and going home. And yet, as the political strategist David Axelrod put it, Preckwinkle is “a strange amalgam. She speaks the language of progressives and she also is very tight with some old-line ward guys.”
The cast of candidates, the steady weakening of the Democratic machine, and the city’s atomized political landscape make it difficult to handicap a race that features no dominant figure for the first time since 1983, when Harold Washington became the city’s first and only elected African-American mayor. Axelrod, who covered Richard J. Daley’s final election for the Hyde Park Herald, in 1975, called the current contest “historically unfathomable. It’s a critical moment for the city, and a change of leadership, and yet none of the candidates have captured the imagination of the people. The expectation is the turnout will be very, very low.”….