By PETER W. COLBY and PAUL MICHAEL GREEN
The Irish game:
Sen. Richard M. Daley is making successful strides towards the mayor's office. A November defeat of Republican incumbent state's attorney Bernard Carey would put Daley in a powerful position. He already beat Byrne's candidate in the primary.
DANIEL O'Connell, Ireland's greatest political leader, defended his motives for Irish independence in 1833 by stating: "I care not for personal attacks. I have the consolation of knowing that my intentions are pure and disinterested and that I am anxious only for peace, good order and freedom." In Chicago 147 years later, state Sen. Richard M. Daley, the son of the city's greatest Irish political leader, answered charges about his political goals and the role of his 11th Ward in city politics by arguing: "No one can destroy a name, no one can destroy a family — yours or mine. And no one can destroy a spirit." Whereas O'Connell was struggling in the 1830's for Ireland's freedom from British rule, young Daley in 1980 was fighting for his liberation from Chicago Mayor Jane Byrne.
Though Daley's objectives were more modest, the 1980 Cook County Democratic primary for state's attorney was an old-fashioned Irish political donnybrook.
Daley's opponent was an Irishman, 14th Ward Alderman Edward Burke, who was hand-picked and heavily supported by Chicago's Irish mayor, Jane Byrne. Daley's chief ally was Cook County Assessor and 19th Ward Democratic Committeeman Tom Hynes, also Irish. Complicating the entire political battle was the country's leading Irish politician, Massachusetts Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, whose own presidential campaign played a crucial role in the Daley-Burke race. Ironically, the only non-Irish participant in this struggle was President Jimmy Carter, and he wound up the biggest winner of them all.
Though the personal roots of the Daley-Burke tussle go back an entire generation, the immediate cause for this battle was the confrontation politics of Chicago's new mayor. In her first year in office, Byrne had picked fights with most of the city's Democratic powerhouses. Most observers, however, recognized them as preliminary bouts and that eventually she would have to take on the eldst son of her late mentor, Richard J. Daley.
This complicated, high-stakes political showdown came quicker than expected as Chicago politics became enmeshed in the Democratic presidential nomination. Last October, when
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Mayor Byrne held a fund raiser at Chicago's McCormick Place with President Carter as her featured speaker, she told the huge Democratic audience that "if the convention were tonight, I would vote in our party caucus without hesitancy to renominate our present leader for another four years." Two weeks later, the mayor endorsed Kennedy for president. She then engineered an unprecedented early endorsement for Kennedy by the Cook County Democratic Central Committee and berated Daley and Hynes for not supporting it.
On November 19 Daley surprised almost everyone by announcing his candidacy, not for clerk, but for Cook County state's attorney — the only counity office held by a Republican. In a brilliant stroke he had pushed the political ball back into Byrne's court. Winning the state's attorney office could place him in a bargaining position to trade off jobs with other Democratic officials, give him the opportunity to watch over the mayor's activities, and give him leverage for the final reckoning with Byrne in the next mayoral election in 1983. By running for state's attorney Daley avoided a messy challenge to a Democratic incumbent, thus maintaining his family's tradition of party loyalty.
After Daley's announcement, Byrne frantically sought a heavyweight challenger to Daley. After two weeks of shuffling through numerous possibilities, she settled on Edward Burke, a former police officer and a former leading foe of Byrne. The county central committee endorsed Burke's candidacy, but Daley refused to drop out of the race, and thus the battle was joined between these two young stalwarts of the Chicago Democratic party.
Burke pounced on Daley early in the campaign using excellent television commercials. Byrne threw her complete support behind Burke, and even former Mayor Michael Bilandic endorsed Burke over Daley, his 11th Ward neighbor.
Political wisdom suggested that if Burke could just run even with Daley in the city, the suburbanites' natural antipathy to the Daley name would give Burke the nomination. A Chicago Tribune poll in early February showed the candidates running an even race, with Daley having an edge in the city and Burke ahead in the suburbs. However, presidential politics and Mayor Byrne's policies and personality were about to turn a close election into a rout.
Kennedy's presidential campaign never caught on in Chicago or anywhere else in the state. Internally, his capable campaign managers were never able to consolidate their efforts with those of Byrne and the party machinery. In any case, many Democratic voters, following the Iranian hostage crisis, leaped onto President Carter's bandwagon while others were unable to reconcile their beliefs with Kennedy's liberalism or lifestyle. The negativism toward Kennedy hurt Burke, but the effect was relatively minor compared to the political effect of the incredible popularity decline suffered by Burke's chief benefactor — Mayor Byrne.
When elected mayor in April 1979, Byrne had received 82 percent of the vote, demolishing Republican Wallace Johnson. She was everybody's darling, promising clean and open government and warning nonproductive city workers to watch out or she would "pick'em up, knock'em down and throw'em out." But in less than a year, Byrne's image, style and policies were under attack from almost every group in every area of the city.
The media, especially television reporters, had turned on her, and nearly every night the TV news showed a mayor under seige. Her main problem was her handling of a series of complicated strikes involving the Chicago Transit Authority, the city school teachers and the fire department. Few blamed her for the causes of the strikes, but almost all chastised her for a scattergun and hip-shooting approach to each crisis. Moreover, her whimsical hiring and firing practices left a vacuum of leadership and competence in city hall. The tide turned against Byrne, and the resulting political waves simply drowned Burke's candidacy. It got so bad for Burke that the day before he told county voters, "Elect me, not Byrne."
Daley's campaign strategy was to avoid his opponent, stress his own record in the state Senate especially in the areas of tax relief and mental health, remind the people of his family's long record of public service, and play upon the growing anti-Byrne sentiment in the city and county. He also allied himself with strong Carter supporters like Hynes and Illinois Treasurer Jerome Cosentino, and though Daley made no formal presidential endorsement, his mother's publicized walk through Bridgeport with Vice President Walter Mondale indicated his preference.
The results of the March 18 Cook County Democratic primary found Daley swamping Burke almost 2 to 1 and Carter whipping Kennedy by over 2 to 1. Byrne, who had so vigorously backed both losers, then denied that Kennedy and Burke were ever "her" candidates.
The primary also proved that the key to winning elections is still the political maxim: "It's not who lives there but who votes there." An analysis of voter turnout in Chicago for the primary reveals how weak the black vote is on the west side and the near south side, and that the strength of the white ethnic wards and the 11th Ward dictate political winners. As was pointed out in our previous Illinois Issues article, "The Consolidation of Clout" (February
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1979), the decline in turnout of voters in the central city, mainly in black wards, has meant a shift in power from the central city to the white peripheral wards. In the 1980 primary, the 25 wards with the highest number of voters taking Democratic ballots, were almost all white outer city wards except for black middle-class areas on the far south side.
Daley clobbered Burke in the city and the suburbs, but his strength in his own 11th Ward was phenomenal. The 11th is the long-time Daley fiefdom, and is on the near south side. It turns out the vote like the strongest of wards on the city periphery. In the March primary more than 77 percent of the 11th Ward's registered voters voted for Daley; over 93 percent of those voting for state's attorney voted for Daley; 2,265 more people voted for state's attorney than voted for president; Daley received 6.3 percent of his total city vote from the 11th Ward; and most impressive of all, Daley's vote margin in the 11th Ward was almost 3,000 votes more than Burke's combined vote margin for all 11 wards which he won. In short, the mighty 11th once again asserted itself as the preeminent ward in Chicago and the building block for Daley and his future political plans.
Daley's strength in the rest of the city was massive and widespread. In 21 of the 39 Chicago wards which Daley carried, his winning percentage was higher than 63 percent. Daley constructed his victory in the city by linking together the large and peripheral middle-class wards, the reform wards along the lake, the far south-side middle-class black wards, other southwest side ethnic wards and his own incredible 11th Ward. There were very few leftovers for Burke.
The 11 wards that Burke carried were centered in the inner city and the near north-west side. Only his own south-side 14th Ward and Ed Kelly's northside 47th Ward fell outside this circle. Burke's vote margins in his good wards paled next to Daley's. Burke's best showing was 63 percent in his home ward, and he was able to win more than 60 percent of the vote in only four wards. In short, the Democratic organization could not find the votes for Burke in the more independent peripheral wards and was unable to produce sizable vote margins or percentages for him in the inner city areas. Of course, it must be noted that many machine regulars probably found it difficult to persuade their voters or themselves that Richard M. Daley was an independent and reform challenger.
Daley's triumph along with Carter's victory leaves Mayor Byrne and the present county Democratic leadership in a tenuous position. Daley's strength in all areas of the city, especially his power in the heavily populated peripheral wards, makes him a formidable future opponent. Moreover, his alliance with Assessor Hynes finally brings together the two strongest vote-producing Democratic wards in the city (the 11th and 19th). The late Mayor Daley was never able to win over completely the better educated and wealthier 19th Ward Irish political leadership who traced their political roots back to independent-minded Democrats like Tom Nash, Dan Ryan and John Duffy. However, Mayor Byrne's political miscalculations, vengeance firings and job performance have changed all that. She and her party favorites now face a united Daley-Hynes axis which could topple her if Daley wins the state's attorney race in November. Hynes as county assessor teamed with Daley as state's attorney would be a formidable duo against her for two long years before the next mayor's election.
Indeed this Irish saga of power and revenge will get more complicated this fall. Another Irishman, Bernard Carey, is the Republican incumbent Cook County state's attorney, running for his third term in office against Daley. Carey would have been easily favored over Daley or Burke if either of them had won a noncontested Democratic primary. Byrne's opposition to Daley, however, and her own unpopularity have made Daley more acceptable to Carey's bedrock support -peripheral ward Chicagoans and the suburbanites. It is ironic that anti-machine votes may go to state's attorney candidate Richard M. Daley, when only a few years ago anti-machine meant anti-Daley not anti-Byrne.
Paul Michael Green is now chairman, division of public administration, and director, Institute for Public Policy and Administration, Governors State University, Park Forest South. Peter W. Colby is now director of the master's program in public policy administration, State University of New York at Binghamton.
6/September 1980/Illinois Issues