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A tale of two wards,
or diversity in one city

Paul M. Green


For many Illinois downstaters the city of Chicago is a monolithic, vote-producing, revenue-consuming and population-dominating urban monster in the northeast part of the state. This belief persists despite Chicago's dwindling vote power (from 48 percent in statewide elections in 1950 to 21 percent) and diminishing population (one million fewer people than in 1950). Chicago's uniqueness rests more in its population diversity than its size. Simply stated, all Chicagoans and Chicago neighborhoods are not alike. As proof, consider this tale of two wards, and their runoff aldermanic elections on April 2.

4th Ward: Alderman Tim Evans v Toni Preckwinkle. On the city's near southeast side, the 4th Ward is clearly divided. Its north end is all black and very poor, and empty spaces and abandoned buildings are everywhere. At its south end is the Hyde Park-Kenwood community, which is racially mixed, very liberal and middle to upper middle-class.

Tim Evans, the incumbent, was Mayor Harold Washington's floor leader and an unsuccessful mayoral candidate in 1989. Evans has always had problems with his ward's south end constituents, and he did again in 1991. (Chicago aldermen are elected without political party labels. If no candidate receives 50 percent plus one vote during the election held the same time as the mayoral primary, a runoff election is held between the top two vote-getters in the ward on the same day as the mayoral general election.)

Toni Preckwinkle, a long-time darling of the Independent Voters of Illinois (IVI), forced Evans into the April 2 runoff with a strong southern-end showing in the February 26 election. In that first round, she won nearly one-third of the wardwide vote, carrying 20 of 58 precincts (all in the Hyde Park-Kenwood community). Other candidates siphoned off enough votes to leave Evans short of a majority.

Their runoff was considered a toss-up until the last week of the campaign. Then came the heat. An Evans worker spotted Alan Dobry, a Preckwinkle volunteer and Democratic committeeman from the neighborhing 5th Ward, posting some racist and anti-semitic pro-Evans flyers in a heavily Jewish Hyde Park neighborhood. The crudely lettered flyers accused Preckwinkle of being part of a secret Mayor Richard M. Daley political plan because her husband is white and Jewish (Preckwinkle, like Evans, is black). Preckwinkle's husband is white but not Jewish, a fad which should have seemed obvious, said one long-time IVI supporter, since "you know Toni's husband's first name is Zeus."

Dobry claimed he was not guilty of dirty tricks. Rather he wanted to inform Hyde Parkers about the low level of Evans' campaign. Dobry is a professional reformer whose predictable diatribes against machine politics and his emotiotional calls for higher political ethics has ostracized him from most other city pols.

CONDUCT, the city's nonpartisan watchdog committee for unbiased elections, called upon Evans to disassociate himself from the flyers even though they did not come from his campaign (which he did) and called for Preckwinkle to condemn Dobry's actions (which she did).

Amid the flurry of accusations, Preckwinkle edged Evans by 109 votes in the April 2 runoff. She demonstrated greater strength in her previously weak sections of the ward.

46th Ward: Alderman Helen Shillery Michael Quigley. According to one wag, the 46th Ward is the "only ward in Chicago with a foreign policy.'' On the north lakefront, it has a socioeconomically and racially mixed electorate.

Incumbent Helen Shiller has ranged from being an urban populist to a radical revolutionary. Her runoff opponent, Mike

38/May 1991/Illinois Issues

Quigley, is a recent emigree from the neighboring 44th Ward and a community activist who had fought against night baseball at Wrigley Field (which probably led to the Chicago Tribune's endorsement of Shiller, to most observers as shocking as if the National Review would have endorsed Walter Mondale in 1984).

Quigley's political muscle came from Mayor Daley's support. The mayor's popularity was unchallenged in the ward. Shiller nevertheless endorsed Daley's primary mayoral opponent, Danny Davis, and despite this unorthodox move, she finished dead-even with Quigley in the first alderman round February 26 (a third candidate prevented either from winning a majority of votes).

The Shiller-Quigley runoff quickly became dirty. Shiller, who according to one reporter changed her personal image from Mother Jones to Cosmos, claimed that Quigley was importing Irish thugs from Daley's 11th Ward to intimidate her workers. Quigley supporters countered that community organizer Slim Coleman, Shiller's long-time ally and philosphical soulmate, was importing gang members to intimidate Quigley's workers.

Quigley and his backers covered the ward with Daley/Quigley signs, while Shiller's forces sent out mailings emphasizing her ward service record, her gender, her Tribune endorsement and her consistent opposition to generic machine politics.

In the runoff, the 46th Ward had the highest turnout of any lakefront ward (despite the complaint by Quigley partisans that Shiller allies had tied two Doberman pinschers near a pro-Quigley polling place to lower the turnout). Surprisingly, Shiller won easily by 1,000 votes (53 percent to 47 percent). Many 46th warders voted an "odd couple" ballot of Daley and Shiller.

Looking at the tale of these two ward battles, some downstaters might consider the politics shocking, while most Chicagoans would view the contests as routine. They do show great diversity within individual city wards and reflect anything but a single mindset, viewpoint or philosophy.

Paul M. Green is director of the Institute for Public Policy and Administration, Governors State University. He is coauthor with Melvin G. Holli of a forthcoming book, Restoration: Chicago Elects a New Mayor Daley, to be published by Lyceum Press, Chicago.

May 1991/Illinois Issues/39

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