Richard M. Daley

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Richard M. Daley

b. April 24, 1942

Chicago Mayor (1989-2011)
Cook County State's Attorney (1980-1989)
Illinois, State Senator (1972-1980)
Chicago, 11th Ward Democratic Committeeman (1975-1980)

Clout and Influence

There are few people born into this world who are weighted with so much public expectation from childhood. Although Richard M. Daley's father, the late Mayor Richard J. Daley, did not become mayor until Richard M. was 12, by the time the younger Daley was old enough to learn about the world, the world was very interested in learning about him.

As the oldest son, it seemed obvious that Richard would inherit the family trade of politics, and father Mayor Daley personally and publicly mentored his son. There are dozens of stock news photos of Mayor Richard J. and son Richard M. together: walking though City Hall together, at political rallies, in the seats of the 1968 Democratic National Convention. With years of reflection, Richard M. Daley's political upbringing has become iconic.

Besides the public political tutelage, Richard M. was raised as part of a tight-knit family (brothers John Daley, Michael Daley and William Daley as well as sisters Patricia Martino and Mary Carol Vanecko) backed by a strict Roman Catholic faith and a father strove for a family sit-down dinner every night. Their father's tight control of the 11th Ward Democratic Organization also fostered an extended family throughout Bridgeport. Many of those who grew up with Richard M. in the 11th Ward have continued to be his most trusted political advisors.

There is little doubt that because he was his father's son, Richard M. Daley was able to become one of Chicago's most powerful and longest serving mayors (he served 22 years). But if Richard M. Daley's participation in high-stakes Chicago politics was assured by his father, his success was not. While the Richard M. Daley of today is relatively cool-tempered and publicly self-confident, his initial election to Mayor was difficult.

The story of Richard M. Daley's rise to the top of Chicago politics has been told many times, at considerably longer length than can be told here. But it is important to note that his first two big campaigns–his successful race for Cook County State's Attorney in 1980, and his first, losing race for Mayor in 1983, were hardly the carefully constructed political operations he maintains at the end of his tenure. Both were difficult elections for him, because he ran against strong, well-known, well organized opponents, because his opponents constantly pointed out how poor-spoken he was, and because early 1980's Chicago was much more politically fractured than it is today.

His 1980 and 1983 elections proved to be a crucible for Richard M. Daley, and an examination of those who succeeded the most in his administration will reveal those who stood with him in his darkest days. These most important friends are still heavily involved as volunteers even to the Rahm Emanuel administration: tapped to shepherd crucial development projects, sit on government boards or serve as volunteer in-the-field commanders in local elections important to the 5th Floor.

As Chicago city government is constructed, the Mayor's Office has considerable (and legal) latitude when it comes to hiring consultants and signing contracts for city business. As a result, many of Richard M. Daley's closest advisors, many of whom are now Rahm Emanuel's closest advisors, receive friendly consideration when these city contracts come up. In part because the Mayor and his staff know these individuals will not only perform the job well, but will also not embarrass the Mayor in the process. In this way, Richard M. Daley created a deep bench of political talent, available whenever needed, a group that was largely handed off to his 5th Floor successor.


  • De La Salle Institute
  • DePaul University, B.A.
  • DePaul University, J.D.

Important Political Events

Chicago Politics Ward by Ward, David K. Fremon