He never used the word “endorse,” but during a panel discussion on the mayor’s race at Tuesday night’s Society of Midland Authors meeting, Ald. Edward Burke left no doubt who he’s supporting in the February election.
“I’d be hard pressed not to be for Gery Chico,” Burke said. “Gery Chico worked for me when he was going to law school at night. His family comes from the 14th Ward. He’s been a supporter of mine for 30 years, and I’ve got a ward that’s 85 percent Hispanic.”
“Is this an official endorsement?” Society president Robert Loerzel asked.
“Well Tip O’Neill said, did he not, that all politics is local,” Burke said, evading the e-word with one of his trademark quotations. “I don’t think there’s any question about that fact that I’ve been with Gery. I circulated his petitions. My brother, who’s in the legislature, enjoyed the support of Gery Chico and all the people in his last election. He won by 690 votes. Am I gonna turn my back on those folks now?”
(Burke was on the panel because he's co-written two books on Chicago history, Inside the Wigwam: Chicago Presidential Conventions 1860-1996 and End of Watch: Chicago Police Killed in the Line of Duty 1853-2006.)
Burke’s support may be critical for Chico, said panelist Dick Simpson, a former alderman and now head of the political science department at the University of Illinois-Chicago. Like most of the historians present, Simpson did not believe Emanuel will win the election in the first round of balloting. Northwest and Lakefront whites will vote for Emanuel, Simpson predicted, but Southwest Siders are up for grabs.
“You can’t just go to the white vote,” he said. “Any candidate is going to have to get the support of at least one group beyond their own racial group in order to be elected mayor. Part of it, actually, hinges on Alderman Burke and his colleagues on the Southwest Side of Chicago. If indeed they back Gery Chico and Gery Chico can get a significant white vote that does not go to Rahm Emanuel, Rahm Emanuel does not have the ability to get 50 percent of the vote, and it will be a runoff.”
Later in the program, when the panelists were discussing which candidate would have best relationship with the City Council, Burke praised Chico again.
“You had to have been there when he was confirmed as chairman of the junior colleges,” Burke said. “Almost every member of the City Council praised him. He’s a likeable, capable, experienced young man.”
Was that an official endorsement? Whatever it was, it’s something any candidate would want to hear from Chicago’s most powerful alderman.