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Chicago's Daley Takes Center Stage. WINDY CITY POLITICS. New mayor defeats opponents in a `quieter' campaign that was full of voting surprises

By Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor / April 6, 1989



CHICAGO

WHEN Richard M. Daley won Chicago's mayoral post this week, he inherited a city on the brink of change. On the surface, the political landscape seems as fractious and divided as ever. Blacks supported three separate candidates. Hispanic leaders in rival camps accused each other of betrayal.

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But below the surface, the city's heated factionalism is giving way to a cooler, more accommodative brand of politics.

``Chicago politics is so nasty and so confrontational and, in some cases, downright vicious,'' says Bill Crotty, a Northwestern University political science professor. But ``this campaign has been the quietest in memory.''

In the end, Mr. Daley handily defeated third-party candidate Timothy Evans and Republican Edward Vrdolyak in a low-key contest that mostly avoided racist appeals and produced a lower-than-expected voter turnout.

Preliminary returns showed Daley getting 56 percent of the vote, Mr. Evans, 41 percent, and Mr. Vrdolyak, 3.5 percent.

``If today's vote meant anything, it meant the people of Chicago want to rise above the politics and get our city moving,'' Daley said Tuesday night.

The city continues to be beset by racial division. Whites still voted overwhelmingly for Daley, who is white, while most blacks abandoned the Democratic Party to vote for Evans, who is black.

But these voting blocs are less lock step than they used to be. The campaign was full of such surprises.

``I keep telling black people: `We should not be in one basket,''' says Hurley Green Sr., publisher of the Chicago Independent Bulletin, a black-owned weekly. Publicly, Mr. Green did not support anybody, but privately, he backed Daley.

When he visited a fund-raiser last week for the Republican Vrdolyak, Green was surprised to find that about 15 percent of the crowd was black. Black leaders such as Tommy Briscoe, president of a local postal workers union, and Alderman Anna Langford endorsed Vrdolyak, even though two years ago Vrdolyak was fighting tooth and nail against the city's first black mayor, the late Harold Washington.

In part, these defections were a protest vote against Evans, who angered many blacks when he did not endorse the acting mayor, also a black, in the February Democratic primary. Acting Mayor Eugene Sawyer was defeated by Daley. But some black politicians crossed over for other reasons.

``If we are going to have a viable opportunity to elect someone outside of the city perimeter, we are going to have to support the Democratic Party,'' says Cecil Partee, city treasurer and longtime black leader.

Hispanics also broke away from what had been a black-Hispanic coalition under Mayor Washington. In the primary, they gave Daley overwhelming support - about equal, in fact, to the percentages they gave Mayor Washington in the Democratic primary two years ago. `I think Hispanics at this point feel the community was shortchanged by a coalition that was based on color,'' says Juan Andrade, executive director of the Midwest-Northeast Voter Registration Education Project. ``And now the community has become more sophisticated. ... It's looking to work with whites, blacks, Asians, native Americans, all who comprise the electorate here in Chicago.''

There is supreme irony in these minority crossovers. A generation ago, black leaders and independent white politicians struggled to bring down the political machine run by Mr. Daley's father, the late Mayor Richard J. Daley. Now, many of them have decided to tag their immediate political fortunes on the success of the younger Daley.

No one predicts that the new Mayor Daley is inheriting a bed of roses. Several political factions have high expectations that he will steer jobs and contracts their way, even though the city faces a potentially large budget deficit and several pressing problems in education and housing. Because this was a special election, court-ordered in the wake of Mayor Washington's sudden passing in 1987, Daley has only two years to establish himself.

But few politicians expect him to stumble badly. Even a longtime opponent of Daley's father, former independent Alderman Leon Despres, says some good things will come out of a new Daley administration. ``It will be pretty hard, with the advisers Daley has, to pull enough boners to get in trouble,'' he says.

A photo of Chicago Mayor Eugene Sawyer was mislabeled as third-party mayoral candidate Timothy Evans in Thursday's Monitor. Mayor Sawyer was defeated in the Feb. 28 Democratic primary. Mr. Evans was beaten in last week's general election. The Monitor regrets the error.