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The Mechanics
« How Mayor Daley and Senator Meeks May Kill Pat Quinn's Chances. "Bold Progressives" Try To Discourage Rahm »

Daley Wed Sep 08 2010

Scott Simon On Mayor Daley

As Ramsin wrote below, Mayor Daley's decision to not seek reelection is most likely the biggest piece of news for Chicago in the last twenty years. To understand the ramifications of Daley's decision I contacted NPR correspondent Scott Simon, host of Weekend Edition Saturday. He is also the author of numerous books including Windy City, a novel about Chicago politics during the death of fictional its mayor. Here's the Q & A:

Q: So what is your immediate reaction to Daley's announcement?

I am surprised but not astonished.

Q: Do you think he decided not to run again because of the economy, his poll numbers, the current most pressing problems facing Chicago?

I can't read the mayor's mind. But it would be understandable if his wife's health affected his thinking. All of the rest--the economy, poll numbers, etc.--would have been possible to deal with in a political campaign. But not Mrs. Daley's health. Politicians have personal lives, too, and I see him as a man who cherishes his family, and wants to step away while he still has time to treasure them and find other fulfilling work.

Q: A lot of the snap coverage focused on the question who's next? Why is that? And who is next?

It's understandable that, "Who's next?" is the second graph of any story. It's politics. I don't know who's next. It should be a helluva campaign.

One name that I would like to throw into the hopper: Ron Huberman, head of the schools. No one has a better resume of actual city leadership, from being a street cop, to Mayor Daley's chief of staff, to head of the CTA and the schools.

Q: What does this mean for the Chicago Machine? Is there going to be some kind of political Civil War where various aldermen and Chicago pols fight for dominance? If so who are they major players?

I think that one of the reasons that Mayor Daley was so popular is that he kept the squabbling of politics at the theatrical level. It was fun to watch, but rarely affected real policies. I think the more fractious the field, the odds are that one candidate who draws from across the board can wind up winning the Democratic primary.

Q: Do you think Rahm Emmanuel would be a good fit for mayor? Would he have a chance of winning if he chose to run?

He would have a definitely good chance of winning. He is an accomplished fundraiser, and that will count even more in a short campaign season. And everything that people say is a drawback in Washington as White House chief of staff--his pugnacity, his temper--are popular traits in Chicago.

Q: How do you think Daley was as mayor overall? How did he compare to his father? What is his legacy?

Richard M. Daley is one of the great mayors of American history. I rank him above Richard J. Daley. A thousand infractions--from crime to corruption--being noted, he turned the world's pre-eminent 20th industrial city into a 21st century economic and cultural engine. And his dedication to the environment and gay rights was in advance of many other leaders.

 
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