Patrick Daley Thompson—former mayor Richard M. Daley’s nephew—will likely win the April 7 aldermanic runoff in the 11th Ward against 26-year-old law student John Kozlar. But by casting only 48.4 percent of the votes in his favor, residents made a statement: The Daley name is not what it once was.
Thompson, 45, began distancing himself from the family name by using the middle initial “D.” during the campaign. Maureen Sullivan, his other 11th Ward challenger, said she’s never seen a Daley campaign so hard. He won 64.5 percent of the votes around the Daley homestead and a strong majority in east Bridgeport. But in Pilsen, a largely Hispanic area, support dropped to 26.5 percent.
The campaign sparked speculation that Thompson, a Metropolitan Water Reclamation District commissioner, will eventually run for mayor. He’s offered reporters only a coy “You never know.”
Handicapping Thompson’s Mayoral Prospects
Name recognition is a Daley birthright. Love or hate Da Mayor, Chicagoans could easily picture a Thompson candidacy. As former alderman Dick Simpson puts it, “If your name is Smith, you don’t start with any of that.”
During his campaign for the 11th Ward, Thompson’s opponents tried to link him with old-school, patronage-driven politics. Sullivan labeled him, 11th Ward Democratic committeeman (and uncle) John Daley, and the outgoing alderman James Balcer (whom Richard M. had picked to fill the vacated slot) the “three amigos.”
Between his aldermanic and MWRD campaign funding, Thompson had a relatively modest $164,000 in receipts at the end of 2014. But the wealth of recognizable politicos on the list—including Toni Preckwinkle and more than 10 Daley relatives—hints at an unusually deep Rolodex for a newcomer.
In Thompson’s household, as fellow commissioner and campaign donor Debra Shore puts it, politics has “probably been the dinner-table conversation” for as long as he can remember. Still, his actual experience is limited. He’s been with the low-profile MWRD for only two years. As a real estate attorney and Democratic precinct captain, he has a public persona that has been solidly under the radar.
Pension reform promises
His time in office, even if brief, has given Thompson something to stump on: his role in MWRD pension reform. The commissioners agreed to bump up contributions, putting them on track for 90 percent funding by 2050. Shore says Thompson was a key player in setting up a trust to pay for retiree health care. With the city and state facing the same challenge, that’s a huge selling point in a candidacy.