Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Chicago Sun Times Editorial - Serious competition good for Daley -- and Chicago

Chicago Sun Times Editorial - Serious competition good for Daley -- and Chicago
Copyright by the Chicago Sun Times
September 5, 2006

Mayor Daley is still pretending that he hasn't decided to run for a sixth term, but he's in -- either that or new campaign manager Terry Peterson just stepped down from his job as CHA chief for nothing. Dorothy Brown, the Circuit Court clerk, already is in the race. So is community activist William "Dock" Walls. Rep. Jesse L. Jackson Jr. on Wednesday will announce he's taking the first step toward putting his name on the ballot, forming a committee to explore the idea.

In the last mayoral election, Daley steamrolled the relatively unknown Paul Jakes and two minor candidates, winning a Kremlinesque 80 percent of the vote. For the first time, he carried a majority of the black vote and captured all 20 African-American wards. Daley's aides were justified in saying the result affirmed his masterful ability to build bridges to -- and break divisions between -- every racial and ethnic group in the city.

The result also displayed how the mayor's masterful political skills had scared off all comers. The lack of competition was reflected in the campaign, which was far from a vigorous airing of the issues, and the turnout, which set a historic low for a mayoral election. Jakes said he was trying to block Daley from being crowned King Richard, and he only barely reached that goal.

Brown's entry into the race guarantees a different election this time because Daley will have to take her more seriously. Jackson would have to be taken even more seriously still, and the result could be the debate that didn't happen in the last go-round.

And there's plenty to debate. It hasn't been a good two years for Daley. He has been besieged by controversy, most notably the City Hall hiring scandal, which resulted in the conviction of four men and called into question Daley's repeated declaration that patronage is dead. A report that attempted to get to the bottom of allegations that former police Cmdr. Jon Burge tortured black suspects concluded that Daley could have done more to investigate when he was Cook County state's attorney. That report could give Brown and Jackson an opening to strip angry black voters from Daley's camp.

Daley would still have to be viewed as the undisputed front-runner in the race. But it will be good for Daley, and for Chicago, to have a competitive election. Daley won't be able to simply go through the motions but will be forced to answer some tough questions and further spell out his vision for the city. That will make him a better candidate, and a better mayor if he is re-elected. Chicago voters will have a choice for mayor and should be treated to a full airing of all of the issues confronting the city. That will help us build a better city. Let the debate begin.


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