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Waguespack Could Beat Daley, But Not How You Think

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Waguespack Could Beat Daley, But Not How You Think
Waguespack Could Beat Daley, But Not How You Think

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In a political first here in Chicago, a white person is running against Mayor Daley.

Over the weekend, the Chicago Sun-Times reported that 32nd Ward Ald. Scott Waguespack is “seriously considering running for mayor — whether or not Mayor Daley seeks a seventh term — because he’s fed up with the corruption, waste and mismanagement that have dogged the Daley era.”

Likely stoking the fire in his belly: only 31 percent of voters think Mayor Daley deserves a seventh term.

Waguespack’s best credential is his vote against the parking meter deal. But that was a function of his position as a representative of the reflexively anti-Daley white progressive community -- which will be a liability in a citywide run.

Waguespack won office in 2007 by defeating Ald. Ted Matlak, the scion of what remained of Dan Rostenkowski’s old Northwest Side machine. The 32nd Ward, which takes in Wicker Park, Bucktown and Roscoe Village, was once a stronghold of white ethnics but is now dominated by people who recognize themselves on Stuff White People Like. Waguespack was the beneficiary of the change. To give you an idea of the political leanings of the ward, Green Party candidate Rich Whitney got 15 percent of the vote in his last run for governor -- his second-best showing in the city.

As proof of his independent credentials, Waguespack this year received the Leon Despres Award, named for the Hyde Park alderman who was the biggest thorn in the first Mayor Daley’s ass.

Having beaten his neighborhood machine, Waguespack now wants to take on the entire machine.

“People are fed up,” he said, pointing to the Hired Truck Scandal, as well as scandals in city hiring and minority contracting. “They’re tired of the old way. Their pocketbooks are tired of the corruption and waste. The bad economy has exposed the weakness of his style of business.”

People have been fed up for years, but they’ve never considered a good-government reformer the answer to City Hall’s problems. Waguespack is not the man who will beat Mayor Daley. He’s a freshman alderman who’s still getting the hang of his job. He also doesn’t get along with his ward committeemen, state Rep. and soon-to-be County Board member John Fritchey. Fritchey helped Waguespack win in 2007, but thinks he’s done a poor job, and reportedly asked Ald. Berny Stone’s daughter to run for the seat next year.

Waguespack may find a symbolic run for mayor more appealing than a re-election campaign. But if he breaks the ice for more serious contenders, who force Mayor Daley to debate and defend and his record, he’ll be doing the city a service. Waguespack could be a local version of Eugene McCarthy, the liberal senator who nearly beat Lyndon Johnson in a 1968 primary, but ended up losing the nomination to Hubert Humphrey. 

At Examiner.com, Dennis Brennan has a good list of potential challengers, including Ald. Robert Fioretti, Thomas Allen, Brendan Reilly and Tom Tunney; Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart; Cook County Assessor James Houlihan; Attorney General Lisa Madigan; and former Chicago Inspector General David Hoffman.

It’s time for a new mayor. But it’ll take a stronger candidate than Waguespack to defeat Daley.

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