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Why Chicago sticks with its Daleys

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Reelection turned out to be much easier for Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley than anyone sizing up his prospects a year ago would have thought.

With his administration dogged by corruption scandals, the five-term mayor had been expected by some to face the political fight of his life. Instead, he cruised to a victory Tuesday in an election that barely registered on most Chicagoans' calendars, after a campaign in which he didn't debate, took Sunday off, and barely acknowledged his two opponents.

Election to a sixth term puts Mayor Daley on track to beat his father's record of 21 years at the city's helm, and continues a dynasty unmatched in any other city.

Since the first Daley, Richard J., was elected mayor in 1955, Chicago has had a Daley in charge about 75 percent of the time – a fact with which most Chicagoans seem perfectly at ease.

"Yes, people in Chicago are upset about corruption. But there's a tremendous amount of respect for the mayor," says Paul Green, a political scientist at Chicago's Roosevelt University. Daley not only won the election with 71 percent of the vote, but he also carried every ward, a singular achievement given how polarized Chicago was 25 years ago, Professor Green notes. "Just like his dad, he never tricked anybody. He's not a Houdini. People voted for him knowing who he is and what he is, and the alternatives paled in comparison."

Daley was helped not just by the smoothly running city and spiffier, greener streets, but also by the Chicago Bears' run for the Super Bowl, which distracted many residents until late in the election campaign.


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