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With 44th Ward Ald. Tom Tunney joining Rahm Emanuel and Mike Quigley in declaring his interest for mayor, Chicago may soon see a long-overdue shift in power. Not just the end of the Daley dynasty, but the end of the South Side’s dominance of the city’s politics.
In modern Chicago history, only one mayor has hailed from the North Side: Jane Byrne, who grew up in the lace-curtain Irish enclave of Sauganash. And Byrne only lasted a single term before losing to Hyde Parker Harold Washington. (p.s. Want Chicago from the Byrne's mouth? Check the Jane Byrne/Paul Simon book My Chicago, freely available on Google Scholar).
Most of those South Side mayors hailed from Bridgeport. Mayor Daley got his start there, but left years ago, moving to a condominium near Soldier Field. It’s technically south of Madison Street, but as any disgruntled Bridgeporter will tell you, it ain’t the South Side.
The South Side used to have a claim on the mayoralty. It had more money -- Kenwood was the city’s millionaires’ row -- it had more people, and it had more Irish. All that has changed. The millionaires now build their mansions in Lincoln Park. White flight has emptied out Studs Lonigan’s old neighborhood. On the ward map, North Side and South Side are equally represented.
Canny Irish politicians have seen this power shift coming for a long time. Thomas Hynes and Michael Madigan, two of the Southwest Side’s most astute politicians, realized they were losing their home turf to blacks and Latinos, and moved their children to the North Side to continue the family dynasties.
Dan Hynes and Lisa Madigan both won statewide office as North Siders. Bridget Gainer, who was appointed to the county board to replace Quigley in his lakefront district, is a Beverly native and a family friend of former Cook County Sheriff Michael Sheahan. (Rahm Emanuel? North sider.)
Victor Crown, a gadfly who used to run a magazine called Illinois politics, called the trend an “invasion from the south. They’ve run out of wards on the south side to take over, and so they come up here to impose their morality on the north side.”
Tunney is also a Southwest Side native, but he moved north for personal, not political reasons. As a gay man, he found Lake View more appealing than his conservative Irish Catholic neighborhood.
So even if Chicago gets a North Side mayor, he may still be a South Sider.