Excuse me for not being the least bit surprised when I learned that Mayor Richard M. Daley said this weekend that he has no intention of publicly endorsing anybody who is seeking electoral office in the Feb. 2 primary elections.
It’s not that Hizzoner Jr. doesn’t care about the outcome of next month’s Democratic primary.
BUT DALEY ISN’T about to put his intelligence quotient on the line by putting himself in a position where on Feb. 3 we can look back and see which of his endorsed candidates won and which lost. He gets enough grief from critics for sounding “dumb” when he speaks. He’s not about to do anything that might confirm that impression.
Now some people are trying to claim that Daley’s refusal (officially, Daley said he’s “too busy” being mayor to try to get involved in boosting others to Election Day victory. That makes him the complete opposite of his father.
The late Richard J. Daley always used his role as party chairman to reinforce his municipal authority as mayor. It’s probably evidence of how much times have changed in the past four decades that Daley the younger thinks he bolsters his mayoral authority by staying out of other people’s campaigns.
There are those who are trying to claim that the person most hurt by Daley’s refusal to publicly endorse is Todd Stroger.
AFTER ALL, IF Daley were to get involved in the Cook County Board president primary and start pressuring people to cast their votes for the incumbent (which is what would nominally be expected, a lot of the people who otherwise would complain about sales taxes would shut their mouths and vote for Stroger – even if one of their hands was being used to pinch their nostrils shut.
But that is not happening here. And like I wrote at the beginning of this commentary, that doesn’t surprise me in the least.
I still remember 1998 and the Democratic primary for governor when people aligned with candidate John Schmidt were eager to peddle the notion that Daley wanted his one-time chief of staff to live in the Executive Mansion.
He may have. I don’t think Daley was hostile to the idea. Yet he never game him the public endorsement, and one of his brothers, John, threw some public support to Schmidt opponent Glenn Poshard (who ultimately lost in the general election that year to George Ryan), although another Daley brother, William, did try to push the Schmidt campaign over the top on Election Day that year.
MOST YEARS, IT doesn’t even get that obvious.
For anyone who looks back at the local election cycles that have occurred since Daley the younger became mayor in 1989 would realize that the man rarely, if ever, goes so far as to publicly endorse someone.
The sight of “M.” behind a podium holding a formal press conference to announce that he thinks we the electorate should cast our ballots for ___________________ who is running for _________________ just doesn’t occur.
You would have a greater chance of seeing the Chicago Cubs in the World Series than getting a blunt endorsement from Daley.
IN FACT, HAVING Daley make comments like he did this weekend about formal endorsements being archaic has become as predictable a “news” story as the one produced by sports departments every summer when the Chicago White Sox travel to the Lakeview neighborhood and manager Ozzie Guillen makes comments implying that Wrigley Field is a rat-infested, urine-smelling dump.
So Daley may be correct when he says, “In this day and age, …it’s a completely different environment in politics. I’ll be very frank. Endorsements don’t mean as much as they used to in the past.”
He’s not going to tell us straight out who we should vote for.
Yet that does not mean there won’t be actions behind the scenes. If anything, we’re going to have to be on the lookout for the little activities that crop up around the campaigns to see which candidates are not being hurt by the mayor’s actions.
THERE WILL BE those individual candidates who suddenly get a few extra campaign workers loaned to them for a day or two to handle some project that helps get a political person’s name out in the public mindset.
For in an election such as the one coming up where there is a certain lack of positive interest (2010 is going to be a year people vote against someone or something, unlike ’08 where many people were voting in favor of an ideal they thought was personified by Barack Obama).
There also is the fear that the inclement weather of the past week will extend into early February (although why anyone is shocked that it is cold and snowy in Chicago during the winter is a surprise to me) and could hold down the vote.
The biggest help anyone could give one of this year’s candidates is a little extra help from people who are willing to do the legwork to convince potential voters that their specific candidate is one of the few who isn’t a buffoon.
EDITOR’S NOTES: Is Rich Daley’s refusal to publicly back Todd Stroger (http://www.suntimes.com/news/cityhall/1941144,daley-denies-stroger-rift-no-endorsement-121509.article) a political kiss-off, or did Stroger have so many problems that Daley’s thoughts on the matter wouldn’t matter.
The mayor is keeping quiet about Election Day (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/03/us/03cncstroger.html) while his brother, William, is trying to maintain (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/12/25/AR2009122501283.html?hpid=opinionsbox1) some sort of moderate viewpoint among Democratic candidates. Neither of these actions should be seen as surprising.