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Analysis: Bill Daley’s name opened doors but slammed a big one shut

Updated: October 19, 2013 7:07PM



For Illinois’ Hamlet, it was not to be.

After years of flirting with running for office, Bill Daley said Tuesday that turning 65 last month convinced him he didn’t really want the governor’s job after all.

Reality is probably more like this: The Daley name that opened a lifetime of doors for former Mayor Richard J. Daley’s youngest son ultimately contributed to his political demise.

The Daley name has been synonymous with clout, power and even with the city of Chicago itself since the mid-1950s. Today it is also synonymous with a host of problems — from a bad parking meter deal to failing schools to the botched investigation into the death of David Koschman.

It’s the more recent connotations that confronted Bill Daley when the former U.S. Commerce Secretary and onetime White House chief of staff to President Barack Obama put in his name for governor.

“It’s one thing to be, quite frankly, in the gallery, and it’s another thing to be on the dance floor,” Bill Daley said at a news conference he called on Tuesday to explain why he was dropping out of the race.

Daley, the perennial waffler who never committed to a race until this summer, said he believed he could win the contest, and he was not withdrawing because he feared losing to Gov. Pat Quinn. It was the long-term obligation, the enormity of the job that he said he feared.

“I’ve concluded that I cannot commit to what the voters may need,” Daley said.

Daley said he wasn’t a rookie, he knew what a campaign was and what governing is.

The younger brother and son to Chicago mayors grew emotional at one point as he reflected on the Daley history.

“Throughout my life I’ve looked forward to serving as an elected official, but that isn’t to be,” Daley said. “As part of a family which has public service in its blood and a family in which I am extremely proud, I’ve always been motivated as each of them to serve.”

Insiders say Daley entered the race as a name-dropper who believed he would pull a Rahm Emanuel — return to Illinois after a Washington stint and achieve virtual overnight political success.

However, Daley quickly learned that the political seas did not part for him.

Sources say that Daley was having difficulty finding a lieutenant governor — several people rejected the notion of running with him.

One Democratic source who asked not to be named said Daley was loath to cajole lower-level politicos in the state to back his candidacy — the very people he needed to grow his support. Another said Daley in recent weeks appeared to be scraping for support among other elected officials within the party.

To be sure, Bill Daley has an impressive resume. He also walked away a multi-millionaire from his last private-sector job as Midwest chairman of JPMorgan Chase, giving him the financial freedom to pursue his lifetime dream of becoming governor.

But it was the Daley family clout that helped him land virtually every job he has ever held — from chairman of Amalgamated Bank to Al Gore’s presidential campaign chairman to two presidential Cabinet appointments.

That history made Bill Daley’s attempt to campaign as a reformer and an outsider all the more challenging.

“I didn’t see a path to victory for Daley,” said Paul Green, director of the Institute for Politics at Roosevelt University. Green said when Illinois is divided into four main areas — Downstate, suburban Cook, the City of Chicago and the collar counties — Daley just didn’t have the votes.

“I thought he had little chance in all four of the areas,” Green said. “The name is secondary to where the votes are. Downstate is where the name is a negative.”

On Tuesday, Bill Daley repeatedly told reporters he wasn’t pulling out of the race because he feared losing to Quinn. However, polls still show Quinn leading Daley, despite the state’s fiscal mess.

Daley already saw the Democratic Party in which his father and brother were so deeply entrenched tilt to Quinn. Quinn won the Cook County Democratic Party and county chairmen endorsements, and Daley was poised to suffer another embarrassment by losing the party’s statewide endorsement this weekend.

“An incumbent governor who’s been elected makes it very difficult,” Green said. “It’s good to be the governor. … You stick with who’s in charge. There’s jobs at stake.”

If Bill Daley stayed in the race, his would be the first Daley name on the ballot in a high-profile contest since 2007. That’s long before the former mayor sold off Chicago parking meters, spent nearly all of the $1.15 billion in proceeds supposed to last 75 years and stuck motorists with a never-ending string of rate hikes that sent meter fees sky-high.

The full measure of the Hired Truck and city hiring scandals and the financial mess that Richard M. Daley left behind at the city and Chicago Public Schools was also not fully known the last time voters had a referendum on anybody named Daley.

And African-American voters have had no opportunity to get even with the Daleys for the torture of African-American suspects by now-convicted Area 2 Commander Jon Burge that has cost the city and county $95 million and counting.

Richard M. Daley never even issued a heartfelt apology for Burge’s reign of terror. Mayor Rahm Emanuel had to do that for him.

There was also the indictment and impending trial of Bill Daley’s nephew on involuntary manslaughter charges in the 2004 death of David Koschman and the cover-up that denied a measure of justice for Koschman’s grieving mother.

When Bill Daley tried to attack Quinn for his appointment of a suburban political powerhouse to the CTA board, reporters rightfully pounced on Daley, asking why he was silent about the contract cronyism that was a steady drumbeat during his brother’s 22-year reign.

Emanuel, who worked together with Bill Daley on Richard M. Daley’s first mayoral campaign and in the Clinton White House, commended his old friend for “a lifetime in public service” and for “being honest with himself” and getting out of the race.

“These are big jobs. They’re important jobs. And you have to be honest with yourself if you’re going to take on the challenge of public life,” the mayor said.

Emanuel, who was succeeded by Bill Daley as White House chief of staff, also said his old pal has “a lot to be proud of.” But, the mayor refused to join Bill Daley in declaring Quinn a sure loser to whoever the Republican nominee for governor may be.

“The voters will decide the fate — not just of Gov. Quinn. They’re going to decide the fate of the State of Illinois. That’s what their election’s for,” he said. “And I’m not in the business of prognosis of what that will be.”



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