b. October 4, 1944
Cook County, Clerk (1991-)
Chicago, Acting Mayor (1987)
Chicago, 49th Ward Alderman (1979-1991)
The David Orr of today is mostly known for running a highly competent county agency and for an unbroken record of ensuring suburban elections go smoothly. But earlier in his career, Orr was a driven partisan in the fight between organization and independent aldermen, who helped to give the term "Lakefront Liberal" meaning in the 1980's.
A one-time member of Ralph Nader's Congress Project, Orr came to Chicago to be a professor at Mundelin College (now part of Loyola University) in 1969. In the 1970's, the 49th Ward, then ruled by David Hartigan and his son Neil Hartigan (later Lt. Governor), went through a number of raucous battles between "independents" who did not support Mayor Richard J. Daley and "organization Democrats" who supported the Mayor and the Cook County Democratic Party.
After Michael Kreloff came within 500 votes of the organization candidate, Esther Saperstein, in 1975, Orr ran a successful campaign in 1979 with the support of Kreloff and other independents. From that point on, Orr handily won reelection, then becoming an early supporter of Harold Washington's 1983 Mayoral campaign, which pitted many of the same independent and organization forces against each other.
As a reward of sorts, Washington appointed Orr to the largely ceremonial Vice Mayor position in City Council. That choice turned out to be important with Washington's death in 1987, since the main job of the Vice Mayor is to be Acting Mayor, should the Mayor die in office. The Acting Mayor then serves as chair for all Council meetings, including those dealing with appointing an interim Mayor successor.
Depending on your political leanings, Orr either did Chicago a service or a disservice by studiously balancing the line between calling on the organization leaders, who supported Eugene Sawyer for mayor, and the independents, who supported Timothy Evans for mayor. Some accounts suggest that had Orr leaned more towards calling on independents, they would have had more time to rally votes to their candidate, a fine parliamentary point that shall be argued over for the ages.
Cashing in on his newly increased name recognition and city-wide goodwill, Orr ran for Cook County Clerk in 1990, after Stanley T. Kusper, Jr. left the seat to in an unsuccessful attempt for Cook County Board President. Orr easily won the race with a majority of the vote in the three-way Democratic primary race.
Orr is widely rumored to have lost interest in the operations of the Clerk's office, fueling rumors that he plans to retire from office before the 2018 elections, which would allow fellow progressive Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle to appoint a replacement to complete his term.
Important Political Events
- 1979, Elected 49th Ward Alderman, defeating Esther Saperstein
- 1987, Appointed Acting Mayor for one month at Harold Washington's death, then replaced by Interim Mayor Eugene Sawyer
- 1990, Elected Cook County Clerk, defeating Cal Sutker and Joanne Alter replacing Stanley T. Kusper, Jr.
Fremon, David K. (January 1, 1998), Chicago Politics Ward by Ward, Indiana University Press, p. 323,