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Daley Forecast: Continued Reign In Chicago

The Post's Midwestern bureau chief, Peter Slevin, filed this report on Chicago Mayor Richard Daley's all-but-certain re-election to a sixth term today.

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It's election day in snowy Chicago and when it's over, the odds are better than good that the Democratic Daley will be settling in for a sixth term. He'll be pulling within striking distance of overtaking his father as the city's longest-serving mayor. If he wins and serves out his term, a Daley will have been running this town for 43 of the previous 56 years.

Six months ago, no one thought Daley would be returned to office so easily, least of all Hizzoner himself. Sure, he had won his fifth term in 2003 with 79 percent of the vote and, sure, countless city dwellers can hardly remember the era when Daley wasn't mayor. (Hint: It was 1989, when there was still an empire called the Soviet Union and a baseball team named the Chicago Cubs that could not win a World Series. Well, some things haven't changed.)

But scandal was nosing ever closer to Daley with the conviction of his patronage chief, Robert Sorich, on federal charges that he rigged city hiring to favor political loyalists. Prosecutors questioned Daley, raising speculation that the mayor might be a target, and Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.) made ever louder noises about challenging him. In a recent telephone interview, your faithful correspondent commented to Daley that he looked beleaguered back then.

"Anyone would be," Daley answered. He wouldn't say whether he considered not running again for the office he cherishes. "I don't get caught on tangents. I just keep focusing and focusing. You have to like this job; I really love this job. I work really hard in this job. This is not a job that's taken lightly. I'm at it six days a week."

On the seventh day, Daley said his activities include parking himself in front of a television to watch a movie or his beloved White Sox, pen in hand: "On Sunday, I sign 500 or 600 autographs. I always said, when I was a kid, baseball players used to sign autographs."

Chicago political pros expect Daley to walk away with today's race against two lesser known and much more poorly funded opponents. The rivals are Cook County Circuit Court Clerk Dorothy Brown and William "Dock" Walls, an ex-aide to former Chicago Mayor Harold Washington. The Illinois Campaign for Political Reform reported this week that Daley has collected more than $3 million this year alone, or an average of $54,000 a day for the first eight weeks of 2007.

It helped that Jackson and Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) opted out of the race. They each announced after the Democratic midterm triumph that it would be more fun and satisfying to stick with the winning party in Washington. The fact is, polls and other signs indicated that neither could beat an unindicted Daley. Jackson is not entirely on the sidelines, however. Sandi Jackson, his wife, is running for 7th Ward alderman.

Daley, whose endorsement is a welcome arrow in any pol's quiver, is enjoying the fresh attention on Chicago that comes from hosting the Obama-for-President bandwagon and campaign headquarters. He had other plans, spelled H-i-l-l-a-r-y C-l-i-n-t-o-n (D-N.Y.) until Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) talked things over.

"I told Obama this: If he was not in the race, I was going to support Hillary. But when Obama told me he was seriously considering, I held off from endorsing her." How did he choose, given that Clinton was raised and schooled in a Chicago suburb?

"She's from New York," Daley declared. Surely there will be no hard feelings, he added. "I talk to her and get along with her. I think she understands."

-- Peter Slevin

By Chris Cillizza  |  February 27, 2007; 1:48 PM ET
 
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