Richard M. Daley was first elected mayor
in a 1989 special election. (Chicago Democrats
were unhappy with Mayor Eugene Sawyer
, elected by the City Council to succeed Mayor Harold Washington
following his death just after he was elected to a second term in 1987.) This followed several unsuccessful mayoral campaigns, most notably the 1983 Democratic Primary1
where he and incumbent Mayor Jane Byrne
lost to Washington. He served as Cook County State's Attorney from 1980-89, and was previously an Illinois State Senator from 1973-80.
One can characterize the current mayor as the "kinder, gentler Mayor Daley". Absent are the public diatribes of his father, which in today's climate would provoke charges of racism or anti-semitism. If he shares those biases (though I doubt he does) he keeps them to himself. He is also far less likely to respond to contentious media questions and political opposition with the fury his father did. Instead, opponents often get an affable but dismissive laugh. This is a confident man, in control of his city. The Democratic Machine is alive and well, if more subtle and refined.
Mayor Daley the Younger has overseen the revitalization of Chicago's downtown and lakefront during his tenure. Some have criticized this as favoring the financially and politically wealthy, but others argue that by focusing on the most visible parts of the city first, it became easier to expand urban renewal to less affluent parts of the city in recent years.
1 The only local election that matters in Chicago. The only exception in recent memory is Alderman Ed Vrdolyak's (D-10th ward) pseudo-independent run (under the "Illinois Solidarity Party" banner) for mayor in 1987's general election. With rare exception, Republicans do not win office.