The Third Mayor Daley?

If you visited the bungalow at 3536 S. Lowe Avenue and saw the owner walk out the front door, you might think it was 1944.

Portly, jowly, with thinning hair combed back from a beetle brow, Patrick Daley Thompson looks exactly like his grandfather, Mayor Richard J. Daley. He lives in the house his grandfather built. Thompson is running for commissioner of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District, but some people think it’s only the first step toward claiming his grandfather’s old job.

Since 1936, when Daley the Elder was elected to the state legislature, a member of the Daley family has always held elective office, except for a few months in 1947 after Daley lost a race for sheriff and before he became 11th Ward committeeman. Currently, John Daley is a Cook County Board member (and 11th Ward committeeman), but at 65, he won’t be around forever. It’s time for Daley 3.0.

As the son of Mayor Daley’s eldest daughter, Thompson is the heir. MWRD commissioner Terrence O’Brien made a “sudden announcement of retirement,” to quote the Sun-Times, and Uncle John made sure Thompson was slated by the Democratic Party Central Committee, passing over incumbent Patricia Horton.

Nadig Newspapers columnist Russ Stewart thinks Thompson is being groomed as the third Mayor Daley. The plan, he says: 11th Ward Ald. James Balcer will resign or decline to seek re-election in 2015. Thompson will take his place.

He would need to emerge quickly as a player, either as an advocate of specific issues, a budget economist or a critic of Emanuel. He would need to identify himself with a cause, such as TIF district reform or school choice, and earn credibility as a thoughtful alderman.

The goal of the "Daley Clan" is to keep Emanuel around long enough to burnish Thompson's credentials, which means at least through 2019, but not so long that the luster of the Daley name will fade or that John Daley will no longer be a powerful county commissioner.

I’m skeptical of another Mayor Daley, and not just because of the monarchical aspects. Even the stoutest genetic pool (and the Daley genetic pool is quite stout), tends to become spoiled and decadent by the time the grandchildren come of age. Consider the Bush family: Prescott was a distinguished senator, George H.W. was an average one-term president and George W. left the country with the biggest economic crisis since the Depression. As the saying goes, “three generations and out.”

Thompson told the Sun-Times, "I think Mayor Emanuel is doing a fantastic job; I'm not interested in that."

That's what they all say.

Buy this book! Ward Room blogger Edward McClelland's book, Young Mr. Obama: Chicago and the Making of a Black President , is available Amazon. Young Mr. Obama includes reporting on President Obama's earliest days in the Windy City, covering how a presumptuous young man transformed himself into presidential material. Buy it now!

Contact Us