Weather Updates

Emanuel appears ready for Deb Mell to take dad’s City Council seat

FILE - In this Jan. 28 2011 file phothen-Chicago mayoral candidate Rahm Emanuel right embraces state Rep. Deborah Mell after

FILE - In this Jan. 28, 2011 file photo, then-Chicago mayoral candidate Rahm Emanuel, right, embraces state Rep. Deborah Mell after remarks at a campaign stop with leaders of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community in Chicago. Mell, one of the General Assembly’s few openly gay members, says she hopes a fellow lesbian will take her spot in the state House if she’s named to the Chicago City Council to replace her father, Alderman Dick Mell, who announced his retirement. He will vacate his seat on July 24, 2013. The longtime alderman is talking up his daughter to fill his City Council seat and it's creating a sticky situation for Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who has ultimate say on who fills the council vacancy. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast, File)

storyidforme: 51896068
tmspicid: 19268197
fileheaderid: 8746199
Article Extras
Story Image

Updated: August 11, 2013 6:37AM

State Rep. Deb Mell (D-Chicago) is not “guaranteed” her father’s aldermanic seat because of her last name, but neither will her political pedigree be held against her, Mayor Rahm Emanuel said Tuesday.

Emanuel appeared to set the stage for the latest chapter of Chicago’s notorious, “All in the Family” politics when he pointed to the series of firsts that would occur if he chose Deb Mell to succeed her retiring father, Ald. Richard Mell (33rd).

“State Rep. Deb Mell is not guaranteed the job because her last name is Deb Mell. And State Rep. Deb Mell is not excluded from the job because her last name is Mell,” the mayor said.

“State Rep. Deb Mell is not guaranteed a job in City Council because she would be the first [openly] lesbian [alderman] or because she had breast cancer. But, she’s not excluded because she would be the first lesbian and the first woman, as [far as] I know, that has breast cancer. I remind all of you [that] she was endorsed by both papers when she ran for state rep.”

Richard Mell’s long-awaited retirement puts Emanuel in a bit of a political trick-bag.

On the one hand, he has promised that all future aldermanic vacancies would be filled through a fair and open process that mirrors the one that culminated in the mayor’s selection of former state transportation manager Natashia Holmes to replace now convicted Ald. Sandi Jackson (7th).

On the other hand, Emanuel likes and admires Deb Mell and believes she would be an ideal replacement for her father. She would also become Chicago’s first openly lesbian and third openly gay aldermen, joining Tom Tunney (44th) and James Cappleman (46th).

Last month, the Chicago Sun-Times quoted top mayoral aides as saying Deb Mell is the odds-on favorite to replace her father.

They described Deb Mell as a good person who is not only highly-qualified, experienced and committed to the community. She’s “cut from a different cloth” than her old-school father is.

Holmes was one of 65 candidates who applied for Jackson’s job and one of 48 interviewed by phone by a mayoral commission that conducted 25 in-person interviews before recommending four finalists to Emanuel.

“It is a clean break from the past. It is an attempt to take the politics out of City Hall picking for a community to give the community an actual role in the selection process,” the mayor said on that day.

On Tuesday, Emanuel reiterated his intention to follow the process he established when he replaced Sandi Jackson.

“It’s a process that worked effectively in the 7th Ward. I said then when we did it this will serve the test of time and it will work here,” the mayor said.

“Nobody is guaranteed a job because of their last name. Nobody’s excluded. They have to meet a standard of public service, commitment to constituents, representing the ward and bringing the type of reform and change that is necessary, which will help the City Council be a partner in making sure we see the type of changes necessary to protect our taxpayers.”

The mayor’s vow not to hold Deb Mell’s last name against her is a good thing considering her retiring father’s defense of a patronage system that, he claimed, once gave his formidable ward organization as many as 1,000 jobs.

During a 90-minute swan-song and other farewell interviews, Richard Mell longed for the days when he could non-suit a pile of parking tickets for supporters and place his top precinct captains in cushy bridge tender’s jobs, where they could either sleep or study the night away.

© 2014 Sun-Times Media, LLC. All rights reserved. This material may not be copied or distributed without permission. For more information about reprints and permissions, visit To order a reprint of this article, click here.