Imagine it’s 1962, and Robert F. Wagner, the mayor of New York City, wants to elect his own candidate in a Democratic primary for Congress in Chicago. Do you think Mayor Richard J. Daley would have stood for a rival mayor playing politics in his city?
The Boss would not have, and it would not have been possible, either. Fifty years ago, organizations still elected politicians, and there’s no way a New York mayor could have competed with Daley’s army of patronage “volunteers.”
But this is 2013, when money and television are more important than ward bosses. And as a result, billionaire New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg is the big daddy in the Democratic primary for the 2nd Congressional District special election.
Bloomberg’s super PAC, Independence USA, reportedly has spent $2 million on TV ads attacking former Rep. Debbie Halvorson for her stance on gun control and promoting Robin Kelly, the most consistently anti-gun candidate in the race. That’s more money than all the other candidates combined have spent. As a result of the media onslaught, state Sen. Toi Hutchinson dropped out of the race and threw her support to Kelly.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel has chosen not to make an endorsement in the race, probably because he doesn’t want to slight Ald. Anthony Beale. So into that vacuum poured Bloomberg and his money. If Kelly is elected, as now seems likely, she’ll owe more to the mayor of New York than to the mayor of Chicago or the president of the Cook County Board. Even though Kelly was Toni Preckwinkle’s chief administrative officer, Preckwinkle endorsed Hutchinson. Her endorsement, it turned out, meant less than Bloomberg’s.
Like I said, Daley would never have let that happen.