Richard M. Daley wins fifth term as Chicago mayor

Wednesday, February 26, 2003

CHICAGO -- Mayor Richard M. Daley swamped three little-known, underfunded challengers to win a fifth term Tuesday after an unusually quiet campaign in a city known for raucous politics.

Daley, 60, defeated two black ministers and black businesswoman Patricia McAllister in a nonpartisan election expected to set a record low for voter turnout.

The election came during a time of mourning for the city and the mayor's own family. Twenty-one people died in a nightclub stampede on Feb. 17, just a day after the death of Daley's 95-year-old mother, Eleanor "Sis" Daley.

With 74 percent of precincts reporting unofficial results, Daley had 78 percent, Jakes 14 percent, McAllister 6 percent and McAfee 2 percent.

Jakes seized on the nightclub tragedy as a campaign issue, saying the city should have shut down the club long ago.

The mayor promised justice for the victims and appointed an independent panel to investigate. He suspended campaigning after his mother's death, resuming TV commercials on Friday but making no campaign appearances.

When he announced his re-election bid, Daley said he still had the drive to improve things in the nation's third-largest city. He has served as mayor for 14 years; his father, Richard J. Daley, was the city's longest-serving mayor at 21 years.

"It's more than a job," Daley said in a recent interview. "Job means your passion, your commitment, what you like to do. And I like this. I like the challenges."

He promised to build more schools and libraries, continue beautification projects in city neighborhoods and create more early childhood education programs.

Daley racked up endorsements from black religious leaders and business groups while ignoring his challengers' requests to debate.

First elected in 1989, Daley has easily beat a succession of black politicians and community leaders to keep his seat in a city where blacks outnumber whites and Hispanics.

He has done it in part by working with the groups that might oppose him -- building a Hispanic political army or supporting affordable housing in poor neighborhoods. Daley also gets high marks for a revitalized downtown and improved test scores after his takeover of Chicago's schools.

Chicago Board of Elections spokesman Tom Leach said voter turnout was expected to be about 34 percent, a record low for a municipal election. The previous low of 38.5 percent came in 1947.

There were several races of note for seats on the 50-member city council.

Bob Love, a former Chicago Bulls player, was seeking to become an alderman representing a South Side ward.

Another race featured the city's first openly gay alderman, restaurateur Tom Tunney, who was appointed in January to fill a vacancy.

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