Cong. John Fary—a sit-in for young Daley? Ethnic dilemma

BEWARE of the Irish. The priest digressed from his funeral eulogy to impart essentially that extratheological sinister warning to the Polish congregation assembled on Chicago's Southwest Side for the last rites of John C. Kluczynski, who had been for many years the district representative in Congress. In the front row of the church sat the leader of the Democratic Party, Mayor Richard Daley, alongside Alderman Edward Burke, who was understood already to have been given the party organization's blessing for the vacancy in Washington. The message from the pulpit caused no notable stir. It wasn't even mentioned in newspaper accounts of "Johnny Klu's" . funeral. But it was not lost on the politicians in attendance beginning with His Honor the Mayor who happened to be campaigning for reelection at the time. In the Polish neighborhoods "Klu's" seat was regarded as Polish property, and though the district consisted of a mixture of Poles, Irish and lately Blacks and other cohesive voting groups, the Poles would not react kindly to the designation of an Irishman—be he the mayor's son (as had been rumored) or Burke or anyone else.

The incident served as a reminder not only of the continuing parish level involvement of the Catholic Church in the affairs of the Democratic organization of Cook County, but even more the continuing importance of ethnic identification in the division of offices and other privileges. In due course Daley dealt with the problem by anointing an exceptionally undistinguished state legislator and tavernkeeper of advanced age (and Polish extraction)—John G. Fary—to take "Klu's" place in the House of Representatives. A few days after his induction into congressional service, Fary dozed off one afternoon while seated near the front of the chamber in full view of the visitors' gallery. Congress has enough image complications without Fary awake or aslumber. One of the Democratic floor leaders had to ask the Illinois delegation whip to please remind the newcomer that this wasn't Springfield and there were expensively furnished offices with comfortable couches to accommodate aging representatives of the people.

Nevertheless, whenever congressional districts are to be recast, Chicago Democrats have to be concerned with the symbolic as well as the actual apportionment of representation among certain clearly delineated population groups now as 20 years ago—namely the Poles, Italians, Irish, Jews and Blacks—and not always in strict accordance with demographic trends. Ethnic honor is at stake. For 14 years, until Roman Pucinski sacrificed his House seniority to undertake a hopeless contest against Republican Sen. Charles Percy, there were three Polish congressmen from Chicago. Now if "Klu's" seat were given over to an Irishman there would be only one. Meanwhile the number of Irish representatives declined from five in 1955 to four in the early 1960's, three in the mid-60's, two in 1969, and now only one, Morgan Murphy. Talk about balance. In the present Cook County Democratic delegation (counting two new suburban representatives) there are two Blacks, two Poles, two Italians and two Jews.

In the Capitol cloakrooms where Illinois members gather to gossip, it was felt that the controversial Daley congressional reapportionment map introduced in Springfield had been aimed as much at the then sole Polish member, Dan Rostenkowski, a ward committeeman and regular organization dependable, as at the independent Abner Mikva of Evanston. Though Rostenkowski is the putative leader of the delegation, his relationship with Daley had cooled, for reasons that are obscure. When the mayor decided to throw his weight against the health planning areas that were proposed by the federal Department of Health, Education and Welfare (and resisted by Gov. Walker and suburban Republicans), instead of calling Rostenkowski, chairman of a House subcommittee on health, Daley passed the word through Rep. Frank Annunzio.

Daley's map disturbed Rostenkowski not because he might be defeated in the new district but rather because the lines embraced new ward committeemen who were significant organization figures on their own. The committeemen that a Chicago congressman must deal with are the keys to his political effectiveness and can restrict the way he operates in Washington. Much of this was known to the spokesmen for the Polish community at the time of Kluczynski's death, adding to the urgency of the priest's words.

As it is, John Fary can hardly be destined for congressional greatness. It is widely assumed that he is warming the seat in sleepy semiretirement until the conditions are ripe for Daley "Sr." to send Daley "Jr." to Congress. The father probably won't be around when the party in Chicago is confronted with the necessity of repealing the old-style ethnic apportionment system. That is certain to be a traumatic experience. While the city steadily loses population, the proportion of underrepresented Blacks, Puerto Ricans, Mexican-Americans and other Spanish heritage groups keeps on growing. 

December 1975 / Illinois Issues / 383

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