Ward Room
Covering Chicago's nine political influencers

How Rahm Can Really Become "The Boss"

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The candidate wasn't sure it happened until we told him.

On Sunday’s Meet The Press, host David Gregory introduced Mayor Rahm Emanuel as “the boss.” Gregory needs a lesson in Chicagoese. Strictly speaking, the mayor is not the boss. The chairman of the Cook County Democratic Party Central Committee is the boss. (Party head Joe Berrios’s underlings actually refer to him as “the boss.”) Richard J. Daley earned the nickname “boss” because he was both mayor and Democratic Party chairman -- the last politician to hold both offices.

Emanuel is not yet officially the boss, but he could be. To get there, he first has to become a ward committeeman. Which might be a good idea, because doing so could settle a nasty political fight in his ward. In February, Ameya Pawar, a 30-year-old political virgin, upset the 47th Ward machine by defeating by the handpicked successor of former alderman Eugene Schulter. Schulter, who is also committeeman of the “Fighting 47th,” was unhappy about losing his influence. In a newsletter to his constituents, Schulter wrote that he is still “equally committed to helping you maintain access to local city, county, and state services – just as I was when I served as your alderman.”

Asked to comment on Schulter’s newsletter, Pawar told the Chicago News Cooperative that “someone should remind him that he isn’t the alderman any more.”

Ordinarily, that someone would be the current alderman. But as we said, Pawar is a political virgin. During his campaign, he vowed not to seek the committeeman’s office. Most alderman are also committeemen, because it quashes just these sorts of rivalries, but good-government types think that holding both jobs looks like bossism. Paul Rosenfeld, a Pawar ally, is running for committeeman, with the endorsement of Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle (who is also 4th Ward committeeman.)

As the most prominent politician in the 47th Ward (he now has his house back), Emanuel could settle this dispute by running for committeeman himself. Once he’s on the central committee, which is comprised of 50 ward and 30 township committeemen, he could take over the chairman’s gavel from Berrios, whose nepotism and cronyism is an embarrassment to the party.

Then we’ll be able to call him “boss.”

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