As his family’s political dynasty came to an end on Tuesday night, Mayor Richard M. Daley wasn’t even in the country.
He and his wife, Maggie, were escaping from cold weather and politics in the British Virgin Islands. It was an appropriate vacation, because it symbolized how far the Daleys have come since 1919, when the mayor’s father began ringing doorbells as a precinct captain for Bridgeport alderman “Big Joe” McDonough. Back then, he was a young clerk in the stockyards, looking for an occupation more glamorous than weighing cattle newly arrived for slaughter.
He found it in politics, using his plodding persistence and his head for numbers to climb through the ward’s hierarchy. When McDonough was elected county treasurer, Daley oversaw the office, leaving his boss free for politics. He was finally rewarded with a seat in the state House of Representatives, then the state senate. After a decade of paying his dues in Springfield, he came home, to take over the Machine. He always intended to pass it on to his children. When Richie and Mike received court appointment from Circuit Court judges, worth over six figures, Daley made no apologies.
“If I can’t help my sons then they can kiss my ass,” Daley said at a meeting of the Cook County Democratic Central Committee, which he controlled. “If a man can’t put his arm around his sons, then what kind of a world are we living in?”
No one argued. No one argued, either, when he got Richie elected to the Constitutional Convention, or the state senate. He’d given his eldest son and namesake a start in life, as any father should, and Richie made a success of himself, using the family name to get himself elected mayor.
Most dynasties run out of steam after two generations. George W. Bush showed us what happens when you let the grandkids take over. Daley’s brothers are still in politics. John is on the Cook County Board, and runs the 11th Ward. Bill, who was the smart one, is White House Chief of Staff. But the current Mayor Daley’s son, Patrick, will never be mayor. Showing no interest in politics, he joined the Army and went to Iraq to escape his father’s shadow. He still knows how to profit from being a Daley, though. In 2008, it was revealed that Patrick and his cousin, Robert Vanecko, had a hidden ownership stake in a sewer inspection company that received $200,000 in government contracts. Other young Daleys have found success in law, medicine and finance. Bill Daley’s oldest son, for example, is a lobbyist for Morgan Stanley
There will be no more Mayors Daley. But it’s still good to be a Daley in this town.
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