Far be it from me to give advice to any mayoral candidate. The only time I ran for office was in junior high.
But having spent the better part of a week interviewing Cook County Circuit Court clerk Dorothy Brown, watching her on the stump, and talking to her supporters, it's become obvious to me that she's got to get nasty. It's hard enough to take on a powerful and well-funded incumbent like Mayor Daley. It's impossible if you run as if you're applying for a job in the auditing division of a large corporation.
Brown has an impressive resume (CPA, MBA, JD), and she's got a stirring story to tell (born in poverty, raised with seven sibblings in a two-bedroom house in small-town Louisiana--she picked cotton, for goodness sakes). But if she thinks people will go for her 'cause they like her plucky personality, she'll be lucky to win 10 percent of the vote.
As one of her steadfast south-side backers told me, "She's got to stop being so nice. Every time Daley bends over, she's got to put her foot in his ass."
In other words, take a page from Tony Peraica's playbook: hammer Daley as hard as Peraica hammered Stroger. Link Daley to Sorich and Tomczak and the Duffs and the hired trucks scandal and the broken Red Line and soaring taxes and out-of-control TIFs.
I know Brown's a long shot no matter what she does (playing tough didn't work for Peraica). But at least her candidacy forces people to think about the need for change. Perhaps she can even wake up a few aldermanic candidates and encourage them to speak out. At the very least, "she's got to give people a reason to vote against Daley," says her supporter.
She's still got a little time. In 1979 Jane Byrne's campaign against Michael Bilandic didn't take off until just before the election, when the city's failed to clear the streets and run the trains after several snowstorms.
Maybe Brown should hope for snow.