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 City Council members and began a political career that would wind its way through every one of the city's major political events.
Contrary to the stable, business-like image "Chairman Burke" (so-called because of his long tenure as Finance Committee Chair) cultivated later in his career, Burke 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 leveraged the Finance Committee to become Chicago's most powerful politician second only to the mayor.
As Finance Committee Chair, Burke had jurisdiction over all city spending and revenue. Because of this broad jurisdiction, Burke could 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 was 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 could only win election through the monetary and election day manpower of the Cook County Democratic Party. Because he controlled judicial slate-making, every judge in Cook County paid respects to Burke. More often than not, this came in the form of significant campaign contributions to his various campaign committees. This, combined with his position as Finance Committee Chair, gave Burke one of the largest campaign treasuries in Illinois 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 slate-making 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 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.
However, Mendoza was elected to Illinois Comptroller in 2016, and her replacement for City Clerk, Anna Valencia, has almost no ties or allegiance to Burke, a first for a Clerk in decades.
Burke's brother, Daniel Burke, served as a State Representative from 1991 until a stunning 2018 defeat to young, progressive Jesus Garcia-backed challenger Aaron Ortiz, then 28-years-old. Rep. Burke previously served as a Chicago Deputy Clerk.
In November 2018, Burke's office was raided by federal agents. They returned in December, and followed with an attempted extortion charge on Jan. 3, 2019. The charge upended Chicago politics, stripping Burke of his chairmanship of the Finance Committee, his judicial slate-making power in the party, and control over worker's compensation committee from the Finance Committee to the Comptroller's office. The same forces that ousted his brother from Springfield pledged to boot Burke from the 14th Ward post he'd held for 50 years.
Current Chicago City Council Committees:
- Committee on Finance
- Committee on Aviation
- Committee on Budget and Government Operations
- Committee on Committees, Rules and Ethics, Vice Chairman
- Committee on Public Safety
- Committee on Workforce Development and Audit
- Committee on Zoning, Landmarks and Building Standards
- Council Office of Financial Analysis Oversight Committee
- 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
- 2019, Charged with attempted extortion
Chicago Politics: Ward by Ward, David K. Fremon, 1989.