Key allies of Chicago mayor are rebuffed

By , Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

If Tuesday's Illinois primary settled George Bush's presidential hopes, it has stirred up Chicago's local political picture. The major surprise was the setback dealt to Chicago Mayor Eugene Sawyer. Four of his key black allies in the City Council were defeated in their races for ward committeeman. Although the four Democrats - William Henry, William Beavers, Marlene Carter, and Sheneather Butler - still hold their seats in the City Council, their political futures are clouded, analysts say.

Mayor Sawyer's future is also clouded, these political observers add. ``It's the nearest thing you've got to a referendum'' on the mayor, analyst Don Rose says. ``Sawyer is unelectable.''

``I think he caught a jolt,'' adds Paul Green, director of Governors State University's public policy institute. ``He needs to make sure ... that the next general election takes place in '91 rather than '89.''

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The date for the next mayoral election is just one of the uncertainties surrounding Sawyer's tenure in City Hall.

He was selected as interim mayor at an uproarious council meeting in December after the sudden death of Mayor Harold Washington. Sawyer, who is black, was supported by mostly white, old-guard aldermen and by the four blacks who were defeated this week. (One switched his vote to Sawyer's opponent at the last moment.)

This week's results bolster the argument of Sawyer's opponents, who say he has little support in the black community and should stand for election next year, rather than serving out his predecessor's term, which ends in 1991.

If the current mayor lost a battle, former Mayor Jane Byrne appears to have lost much more. After losing to Mayor Washington in 1983 and 1987, she lost again this week in the Democratic primary for clerk of the Cook County Circuit Court. After being trounced by Aurelia Pucinski, Ms. Byrne said she might not run for political office again. ``The people shouted,'' she was quoted as saying. ``I'm very good at taking hints.''

Ms. Pucinski, meanwhile, has reclaimed her political credibility after an embarrassing defeat to a supporter of political extremist Lyndon LaRouche in a 1986 Democratic primary race.

In November, Pucinski will face an old-guard politician who claimed victory in Tuesday's primary. Edward Vrdolyak, former Democratic stalwart turned Republican, received roughly 62,500 votes in Chicago alone. Although he ran unopposed, the large Republican vote in this staunchly Democratic city is important to Mr. Vrdolyak's own political future. He hopes the Republican turnout - more than twice the usual totals - marks the start of a move of conservative white Democrats into the Republican fold.

Vrdolyak may have problems in the fall, Professor Green adds. ``The people of Chicago are tired of the same cast of characters. They want to put the past behind them.''

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