Tuesday, December 12, 2006

This Daley run will not be like the others

Chicago is famous for its politics, especially around city election time. The election which will be held February 27, 2007, is now being projected to draw an increased number of voters than normal.

The reason?

A very heated mayoral election of course. Challengers are aspiring to take down what is “lovingly” referred to as the “Daley Machine”. Candidates like Dorothy Brown and Bill “Dock” Walls are saying that Mayor Daley is beatable but Daley says he has more to give to the City of Chicago.

This Daley run will not be like the others

By Gary Washburn and Dan Mihalopoulos.

Tribune staff reporters Mickey Ciokajlo and Todd Lighty contributed to this report

Tribune staff reporters

Published December 12, 2006

On the surface it looked a lot like past campaigns for mayor, with Richard Daley touting his record in office and declaring his passion for the job and the city. But while Daley was talking Monday about seeking a sixth term, his aides were filing nominating petitions with fewer than 25,000 signatures.

That figure was far from the political power plays of the past, when Daley's campaign filed as many as 200,000 signatures.

It was a sign that things are a little different this time around for the mayor. Since the 2003 election, the mayor's loyal political street organizations have suffered at the hands of an ongoing federal investigation into illegal hiring that rewarded campaign workers.

"All this means is that he doesn't have as many street workers this time around," said Ald. Ricardo Munoz (22nd). "Four years ago, the federal government wasn't breathing down his neck.

"Still, polls have shown that Daley's popularity is high despite City Hall scandals, and most political experts consider him the clear favorite to win re-election. Another four years would allow Daley to eclipse his father's record of almost 22 years in the job.

"With all that we have accomplished, am I satisfied?" Daley asked during his speech at the Comer Youth Center on the South Side. "Do I believe Chicago is the best it can be? ... Or do I have more to give our city?

"Today I am here to answer with all my heart and soul and compassion. And the answer is yes. I have more to give to keep Chicago moving forward.

"But Daley felt the need to mention the scandals, saying he had "accepted responsibility for the things that have gone wrong" and taken steps to address them, such as changing hiring procedures.

The mayor's former patronage chief, Robert Sorich, was sentenced to prison last month for his role in a long-running scheme to rig city hiring in favor of campaign workers for pro-Daley political groups. Witnesses in the Sorich trial said they owed their city jobs to their campaign work.

This fall, Daley's campaign required volunteers who circulated petitions to sign affidavits swearing they had not been offered public jobs or promotions for their help."There's nothing really for these guys to gain," said Ald. Brian Doherty (41st), whose campaign workers circulated petitions for the incumbent, although Doherty is a Republican. "No one will bust their tails except for the true believers.

"Another sign of the times was a memo sent Friday to all Water Management Department employees by First Deputy Commissioner William Bresnahan.

"This is a reminder that political/campaign activities ... cannot be mingled with city work or resources," said the memo, obtained by the Tribune. "No employees can be forced to participate in a political campaign, including donations of time and money."

Terry Peterson, Daley's campaign manager, made no apologies for the small number of signatures. He noted that Daley only needs 12,500 valid signatures to get on the ballot.Besides Democratic ward organizations, Daley's petitions were circulated by block club leaders, ministers and "just ordinary citizens [who] would walk into the campaign office and say, `Terry, can I get a sheet to circulate for the mayor?'" Peterson said.

Absent from the effort this time, Peterson said, were the Hispanic Democratic Organization and other pro-Daley groups that have figured into the federal investigation.One Democratic ward committeeman, who spoke on condition of anonymity, wondered whether the low number could be part of a Daley campaign strategy to avoid making a splash with his petitions.

But Daley's two announced challengers predicted the mayor was vulnerable."The mayor's organization has been weakened, and he isn't the mayor he used to be," said Bill "Dock" Walls, who presented 39,000 signatures.

Dorothy Brown, clerk of the Cook County Circuit Court, did not file her petitions for mayor Monday but held a news conference to state that "Mayor Daley is beatable."

Brown said she would end "17 years of almost unprecedented graft and corruption" under the Daley administration.Filing for city clerk Monday were Miguel del Valle, appointed by Daley recently to fill a vacancy in the office, and Jose Cerda, a former mayoral aide who is running without Daley's blessing. Stephanie Neely, appointed by the mayor recently to fill the vacant city treasurer's job, was the only candidate Monday to file for that office.

The dissolution of Daley's patronage armies was widely expected to encourage more competition for City Council seats, and 120 candidates filed for alderman Monday. At least 40 of the city's 50 aldermen will face challengers.Scores of incumbents and their would-be replacements lined up at 69 W. Washington St. early Monday to file their nominating petitions. The filing deadline is 5 p.m. Monday.

Paul Stewart, an 18th Ward candidate, was the first aldermanic hopeful in line. He said being there so early has symbolic value because it shows voters his "true commitment" to the race.

Standing right behind him was Mazonne "Maze" Jackson, another candidate for the 18th Ward seat left open by Thomas Murphy's election as a Cook County judge.But sources said Daley would soon appoint Lona Lane, a Murphy aide, to replace him. Lane also filed petitions Monday, as the mayor's office declined comment on the 18th Ward vacancy.

The 18th Ward campaign could become a proxy battle for several African-American leaders, with U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.) and Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White expected to back candidates there.Ald. Burton Natarus (42nd), who has been on the council since 1971, filed for re-election just moments after Brendan Reilly joined the race. Reilly is a former aide to Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan.

"I think I'll be OK," Natarus told reporters as Reilly stood a few feet away.The mayor's top ally in the council's Latino caucus, Ald. Daniel Solis (25th), has four opponents already and more appear poised to join the scrum. The hopefuls include former council members Ambrosio Medrano, who went to prison for corruption, and Juan Soliz.

Other challengers are local school council member Cuahutemoc Morfin and Aaron del Valle of the Hispanic Democratic Organization. HDO once supported Solis, but he has feuded with leaders of the once powerful pro-Daley group.Another hotly contested campaign could be in the 2nd Ward, where three challengers filed Monday against 13-year incumbent Madeline Haithcock.

Although a candidate in the ward needs only 150 signatures to get on the ballot, lawyer Robert Fioretti filed more than 8,500.

Larry Doody, another 2nd Ward candidate, filed about 2,000 signatures and downplayed Fioretti's larger total. "Petitions don't win races," Doody said.Vilma Colom, who lost her council spot four years ago to Ald. Rey Colon (35th), is seeking a rematch next year.

Former 1st Ward Ald. Jesse Granato also is attempting a comeback four years after voters dropped him from the council. This time, though, Granato is running in the 26th Ward, opposing Ald. Billy Ocasio.


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