Recall a family once so central to Chicago life that pundits handicapped the possibility of a Daley trifecta: Rich as mayor, Bill as governor, John as county board prez. Has all that clout really faded?
“Yesterday’s news,” says DePaul lecturer and former Chicago Tribune writer John McCarron about Rich, 71. After 22 years as mayor, he handed the gavel to Rahm Emanuel in May 2011 and followed his best friend, Terry Newman, to the law firm Katten Muchin Rosenman. Besides helping shepherd the $55 million, 20-acre Maggie Daley Park toward an opening day in 2015 (and some recent health problems that, at presstime, had landed him in the Northwestern ICU), this Daley has barely been heard from in Chicago, not even when Rahm blames him—carefully, without ever mentioning his name—for everything from bankrupt budgets to those lousy privatization deals. (“Rahm owes a lot to Rich Daley,” explains Joel Weisman, host of WTTW’s Chicago Tonight: The Week in Review. Richard Daley paved the way for Rahm to land his congressional seat and to run for mayor, says Weisman, and “Rahm remembers those favors.”)
Post-Rich, it was thought that Bill, 65, the youngest of the four brothers, would carry the torch. Appointed to every position he ever held, Bill excelled at some (with Rahm, he pushed through NAFTA for President Clinton) but not others (managing Al Gore’s campaign and recount). While he had the name and the Rolodex for a gubernatorial bid, he dropped out 98 days in, seemingly repulsed by the grubbiness of campaigning. “Running for office is far different from having a title,” says Weisman. “You have to answer questions as opposed to spouting the party line or defending the position of someone else.”
In a funny turn of events, John, 67, who serves on the Cook County Board of Commissioners and chairs its powerful finance committee, may now have the most clout of the brothers. (Michael, 70, is a connected local attorney.) The only brother who still lives in Bridgeport, John wields less power under the mighty Preckwinkle (No. 4) than he did in the Stroger regimes. “Chicago’s power structure is changing, and patronage is being dismantled,” says Tribune literary editor Elizabeth Taylor, coauthor of the definitive biography of patriarch Richard J. “For [the Daleys], it doesn’t provide the kind of base that it once did. They don’t have favors to dole out.”