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Posted at 2:34 PM ET, 02/24/2011

Comparing the Daley machines

By Ezra Klein

From John Judis's excellent look at the transformation of Chicago, and what it tells us, or doesn't tell us, about the sort of mayor Rahm will be:

Here’s something that is important to know about Richard M. Daley: After his father’s death, he ran for state’s attorney in 1980 against Byrne’s handpicked machine candidate, Alderman Ed Burke. He was the outsider and reformer, and defeated Burke thanks partly to the kind of Lakefront liberal support that his father had received grudgingly, if at all. He was not simply another version of his father.

In 1983, he ran for mayor, but lost to African American Congressman Harold Washington when he and Byrne split the white vote. Washington’s four and a half years in office — he died in 1987 — were marked by acrimony between the mayor and the machine majority on the council; but, in his 1987 reelection bid, Washington set an important political precedent. By drawing together the city’s African Americans with Chicago’s rising Hispanic population and a share of Lakefront liberals, he was able to win the election without the old white, ethnic wards. In 1989, Daley, following Washington’s lead, built a coalition of Lakefront liberals and Hispanics, as well as white ethnics. Later, he added African Americans. In 2007, he was reelected with more than 70 percent of the vote. Running against two African Americans, he carried all 20 predominately black wards.

By Ezra Klein  | February 24, 2011; 2:34 PM ET
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