Saturday, October 23, 2010



As we head into the tightening November 2 gubernatorial election, a thought has occurred to me: perhaps the outcome of this election may turn as much on what happens in those wards that comprise the remainder of the old Machine as it does on what happens in the collar counties.

The conventional wisdom is that Pat Quinn will get nothing south of I-80 and perhaps west of I-39. Bill Brady will get nothing in the city of Chicago and in some of the close-in suburbs. Therefore, the battleground will be the collar counties and large swaths of suburban Cook County.

It’s hard to argue with that logic. However, there may be more at work here. Traditionally, mayors of Chicago have not been comfortable with Democratic governors of Illinois, perhaps because they represent an alternative center of power when they get too big for their proverbial britches and come to think that being governor of Illinois is somehow remotely as important as being mayor of Chicago. Whatever the reasons, powerful mayors of Chicago would rather work with Republican governors. Richard J. Daley’s favorite governor was Bill Stratton and Dick Ogilvie kept out of the Mayor’s way, even helping out by committing political suicide in implementing the state income tax. Richard M. Daley got along famously with Jim Thompson as they lasciviously divided the generous spoils provided by the hapless taxpayers of Illinois. While Jim Edgar could occasionally be a burr in the Mayor’s saddle, he ultimately presented few obstacles to the designs of the boys in Chicago and Springfield, including Thompson and Edgar pal, and former Ogilvie protégé Bill Cellini, who played well with the guys in Chicago. Democrat Rod Blagojevich, on the other hand, was a major problem for the Mayor, largely because of his general doofishness and ham-handed approach to fleecing the taxpayers, but also because he really thought that, by virtue of being governor of Illinois, he had achieved a position of power approximating that of the Mayor’s office.

In fact, mayoral antipathy (perhaps too strong a word) toward Democratic governors led to perhaps my favorite Richard M. Daley quote. When Democratic Attorney General Neil Hartigan ran for governor against Republican Jim Edgar in 1990, he expressed frustration, and not all that privately, that Mayor Daley, who was far more comfortable with the milquetoast Jim Edgar than he let on, was not doing enough to support Hartigan’s candidacy. In response, Daley said

“What do you want me to do, take my pants off?”

Great quote. I can almost see Hartigan quickly telling reporters “Hey, I never asked the guy to take his pants off!” But I digress.

Combine this historical preference of Chicago mayors for Republican governors with Pat Quinn’s reputation as an anti-Machine reformer (a reputation that is very rapidly fading into the distant past; see my 9/30/10, 5/13/10, 3/26/10, 2/4/10, 2/2/10, and 2/1/10 posts), and one wonders how the votes in, say, the 11th, the 19th, and 13th wards, and maybe even the 36th, the 38th, and other north side wards, among others, will come out. No one is saying that Brady will carry these wards, but he won’t have to carry them to “win” them in a sense.

With Daley’s leaving office, perhaps the historical preference of Chicago mayors for Republican governors will not be in play this time around. But this preference is, and has never been, at least in most cases, anything personal; it results from a cold, some might say Machiavellian, analysis of the two poles of power in the state, so there is no reason to believe that those supporting the mayoral aspirations of any of the leading candidates will be brimming with enthusiasm for Quinn’s reelection. And the historic antipathy toward Quinn on the part of Machine pols may be fading, but it’s still there. Remember, a lot of these guys suffer from what we call Irish amnesia: they forgive, but they never forget.

So watch the votes in what remains of the Machine wards on election day; they could tell an interesting, and perhaps decisive, tale.

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