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Brown: Bill Daley a familiar face in one Illinois county — only 101 to go

Updated: July 15, 2013 6:30PM



Bill Daley is a stalwart of the national Democratic Party, a former Cabinet member to President Bill Clinton, chief of staff to President Barack Obama and campaign manager to almost-president Al Gore.

But DuPage County Democratic Chairman Robert Peickert has never met or spoken to him.

Neither has Will County party chairman Scott Pyles. Same goes for Madison County’s Jim Stack.

With Daley declaring himself a candidate for governor this week — and going farther than ever before to back that up — it’s worth noting that he still has a lot of ground to cover outside Cook County if he’s really serious.

“I don’t know if the Daley name is going to play very well in Will County,” said Pyles, a Joliet lawyer who says he has received courtesy visits from many other would-be statewide candidates.

“We’ve never seen him. We like to see all of our candidates,” Stack, a state worker from Collinsville, said pointedly in the friendliest tone of voice he could muster.

Peickert said “it’s really hard to say whether the Daley name is a positive or a negative” in DuPage, home to state’s the largest Democratic vote outside Cook County.

But Peickert put in a plug for Gov. Pat Quinn, who he said is “very well liked” in DuPage.

Daley’s national credentials and relationships give his candidacy immediate fund-raising punch and a presumption of legitimacy. But this may turn out to be the toughest race any Daley has ever faced, even if Attorney General Lisa Madigan stays out of it and Daley gets a one-on-one with the wounded Quinn.

There was a time during the first half of Rich Daley’s reign as mayor, before the chickens came home to roost, that people seriously mentioned him as a candidate for governor or senator.

Such talk overlooked the obvious fact that from a Chicago perspective, being mayor is a much better job with lots more power than any statewide office.

What always intrigued me at the time, though, was that the Daley name enjoyed enough cachet around the state for people to take the notion seriously. At one point, a Sun-Times poll even found Daley with an approval rating of 68 percent in the suburbs, 10 points higher than among city residents.

There was a kind of curiosity mixed with respect for Richard M. Daley as a get-things-done guy following in the footsteps of his father Richard J. Daley that cultivated a certain political celebrity everywhere he went.

At this point, I have to believe the bloom is off that rose. The Daley name doesn’t carry the weight it once did — not in Chicago or beyond.

I don’t have any polling data to back that up, just gut instinct and a decade of unfavorable headlines with potentially more to come as the David Koschman death investigation involving Daley nephew R.J. Vanecko continues to unfold.

Obviously, Bill Daley has seen enough in his polling numbers to believe he can overcome whatever baggage his family name has left him.

Daley will be a formidable candidate if he stays in the race, no doubt about it, and we might as well take his word for now that he’s “100 percent in,” even though doubts linger. It seems just as likely he wants to flush out Madigan about her intentions and then will make up his mind.

More than that, Daley is somebody who, if elected, has the know-how to govern.

But we’re either long past — or haven’t yet reached — the point of a public yearning for another Daley family member to save us from our predicament.

Daley is going to have to put in the work to make a case for himself, which will include having to go out and meet those county chairmen.

Even with a politically vulnerable Quinn, no Daley will have faced such a challenging campaign since brother Rich finished last in a three-way race with Harold Washington and Jane Byrne in 1983.

Years ago I wrote that Daley shouldn’t be running for statewide office as long as his brother was in the mayor’s office, but that’s no longer an issue.

In fact, it’s now a fair issue to raise — as Daley has — about Lisa Madigan, and her father, House Speaker Mike Madigan. We can’t have one family dynasty controlling two branches of state government.

For the record, those county chairmen say they all know Lisa.



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