Edward M. Burke
b. December 29, 1943
Chicago, 14th Ward Alderman (1969-)
Chicago, 14th Ward Democratic Committeeman (1968-)
As a child, Edward M. Burke's father, 14th Ward Democratic Committeeman Joseph Burke, would shepherd him from ward meetings to funerals, shaking hands along the way. After graduating college, young Burke obtained a Chicago police job and an assignment in the Cook County State's Attorney's office while also attending law school. Then, soon after Ed Burke finished law school, Joseph Burke died of cancer. Ed Burke, only 25 at the time, promised favors to everyone he could and won appointment to Democratic Committeeman. A few months later, he won his only seriously contested election for alderman. A Chicago police officer for three years before becoming Alderman, Burke became one of Chicago's youngest ever Alderman and began a political career that would wind its way through every one of Chicago's major political events.
Contrary to the stable, business-like image "Chairman Burke" (so-called because of his long tenure as Finance Committee Chair) cultivates today, Burke, now 71, was once a constant contender for higher office and an aggressive City Council partisan.
Immediately following Mayor Harold Washington's 1983 election, Burke and ally Ald. Edward Vrdolyak formed the Vrdolyak 29, a majority of mostly white Council members who opposed Washington's every move. One of the Vrdolyak 29's first actions was to dump African-American Ald. Wilson Frost as Finance Committee Chairman and replace him with Burke. Except for a brief period in 1986, when most of the Finance Committee's powers were transferred to then-Ald. Timothy Evans' Budget Committee, and from 1987 to 1989, when Burke was dumped from the Finance Committee Chair outright, Ed Burke has leveraged the Finance Committee to become Chicago's most powerful politician second only to the mayor.
As Finance Committee Chair, Burke has jurisdiction over all city spending and revenue–in other words, everything. Because of this broad jurisdiction, Burke can call any proposed ordinance or spending proposal before his committee and can kill it, modify it or hold hearings on it at his discretion.
Burke is also chair of the Cook County Democratic Party's judicial slating committee. Because Illinois elects judges rather than appoints them, and because judicial races are relatively low profile, most judges can only win election through the monetary and election day manpower of the Cook County Democratic Party. Because he controls judicial slate-making, every judge in Cook County pays their respects to Burke. More often than not, this comes in the form of significant campaign contributions to his various campaign committees. This, combined with his Finance Committee Chair, has given Burke one of the largest campaign treasuries in Illinois; it’s in the same realm as mayors, Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, Illinois Senate President John Cullerton and Cook County Assessor Joseph Berrios.
In 2007, Burke exercised his judiciary slatemaking power by influencing the appointment of his wife, Illinois Appellate Judge Anne M. Burke, to a vacancy in the Illinois Supreme Court. She ran unopposed in the 2008 Democratic primary campaign.
Burke has flexed his city-wide political muscles in other ways. In 2011, losing mayoral candidate Gery Chico was largely backed by trade unions and Burke's fundraising organization and in that same year then-State Rep. Susana Mendoza was slated for Chicago City Clerk, a position she was reelected to in 2015. A large portion of Mendoza's legislative district fell within the 14th Ward.
Burke's brother, Daniel Burke, has been a State Representative since 1991 and previously served as a Chicago Deputy Clerk.
Current Chicago City Council Committees:
- Committee on Finance, Chairman
- Committee on Aviation, Member
- Committee on Budget and Government Operations, Member
- Committee on Committees, Rules and Ethics, Vice Chairman
- Committee on Public Safety, Member
- Committee on Workforce Development and Audit, Member
- Committee on Zoning, Landmarks and Building Standards, Member
- 1965, DePaul University, B.A.
- 1968, DePaul University College of Law, J.D.
Important Political Events
- 1968, Appointed 14th Ward Democratic Committeeman by precinct captains
- 1969, Elected 14th Ward Alderman in 7-way race
- 1972, Elected 14th Ward Democratic Committeeman
- 1975, Passed over for appointment by Richard J. Daley to replace late-Cong. John Kluczynski with John Fary
- 1977, Relected 14th Ward Alderman
- 1980, Defeated for Cook County State's Attorney by Richard M. Daley
- 1983, Defeated for Chicago Mayor by Harold Washington
- 1983, Becomes Chair of Chicago City Council Finance Committee, replacing Ald. Martin Frost
- 1987, Loses Chair of Chicago City Council Finance Committee
- 1989, Candidate for Chicago Mayor, withdraws before election
- 1989, Regains Chair of Chicago City Council Finance Committee
- 1991, Brother Daniel Burke Elected State Representative
- 2006, Wife Anne M. Burke appointed to Illinois Supreme Court
Chicago Politics: Ward by Ward, David K. Fremon, 1989.