by Mick Dumke
For years Mayor Daley made it a practice to avoid giving endorsements in hotly contested Democratic primaries. Though he might offer advice, encouragement, or even a few foot soldiers here and there, he officially refrained from declaring his preferences when members of his own party were battling one another for ballot spots.
This year, though, the mayor is lending his name to several campaigns. Daley endorsed Barack Obama for president more than a year ago, and the other day he even worked the phones on Obama's behalf. But last month he waded into a much-lower-profile county race by backing 28th Ward alderman Ed Smith, a frequent City Council foe, for Cook County Recorder of Deeds.
Incumbent recorder Gene Moore, who's held the office since 1999, wasn't very happy to hear the news. He says Daley pledged to support him last fall, then backed out. "He called me at [my] office," Moore says. "I went to his office, because I'd never been to his office. I was elated that the mayor called. And he told me he was supporting me." Moore says he subsequently heard that Daley had decided to throw his weight behind Smith in return for the alderman's vote for the mayor's budget and property tax hikes. Smith says he voted for the most recent budget -- as he's voted for Daley's other budgets--because it included funding for a range of programs that needy residents in his ward rely on.
Now the mayor's tapped another candidate. Earlier today Will Burns, a candidate for state rep in the 26th district, announced that he'd won Daley's endorsement. Burns, a former aide to state senate president Emil Jones, said he sat down with the mayor in December to tell him about his goals of working on gun control, education funding reform, and health care coverage, and Daley agreed to back him. (A call to the mayor's press office wasn't returned.)
Burns -- who's running against incumbent Elga Jeffries and challengers Kenny Johnson, Phillip Jackson, and Paul Chadha -- once worked in Obama's state senate office. Like the presidential candidate, he's promising to bring fresh energy to the political process.
That message is arguably an awkward fit with an endorsement from the face of the Democratic machine. Of course, Obama's trying to pull off the same thing. And when Burns was asked about it, he alluded to his ally Toni Preckwinkle, alderman of the Fourth Ward: "I also have the leader of the progressive caucus in the council backing me. I think that points to the fact that I'm able to build a big tent." Only people able to build coalitions and collaborations can get anything done, Burns argued.
He added: "This campaign is about change."