Joyce-Daley election theory just the latest urban legend in Chicago politics

SHARE Joyce-Daley election theory just the latest urban legend in Chicago politics
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Mayoral candidates Bill Daley, left, and Jerry Joyce, right. Sun-Times file photos by Rich Hein

Certain political hypotheses explaining Chicago election outcomes have taken on the mantle of accepted truth over time, the 2019 mayoral race adding one more.

People still state as fact that it was Rich Daley who enabled Harold Washington to get elected as mayor in 1983 by splitting the white vote with Jane Byrne.

Then there’s the corollary argument blaming Tim Evans for the rift with Eugene Sawyer that split the black community and allowed Daley to win in 1989.

After Tuesday, we have another truth that “everybody knows”— that Jerry Joyce cost mayoral brother Bill Daley his spot in the April 2 runoff as part of a family vendetta involving his father, legendary 19th Ward political guru Jeremiah Joyce, and the loss of a lucrative concession contract at O’Hare Airport.

As with all this common wisdom, there are elements of truth in the theory, as well evidence to the contrary that suggest it is at least an oversimplification.

Daley finished third with 14.7 percent of the vote, about 7,000 votes behind second place Toni Preckwinkle, according to the latest tallies.

Joyce finished seventh with just 7.3 percent of the vote, but his 38,595 total votes certainly would have made a big difference in the race if distributed elsewhere. If Daley had received even a third of Joyce’s votes, he’s in the runoff with Lori Lightfoot, assuming the rest didn’t go to Preckwinkle.

Mayoral candidates, from left, Bill Daley, Amara Enyia, Garry McCarthy, Jerry Joyce, John Kenneth Kozlar and Willie Wilson met with the Sun-Times Editorial Board Tuesday, February 5, 2019. | Rich Hein/Sun-Times

Mayoral candidates, from left, Bill Daley, Amara Enyia, Garry McCarthy, Jerry Joyce, John Kenneth Kozlar and Willie Wilson met with the Sun-Times Editorial Board Tuesday, February 5, 2019. | Rich Hein/Sun-Times

In the 19th Ward alone, Joyce’s home turf, Daley finished nearly 6,000 votes behind Joyce, a whopping margin in a ward that Daley needed to carry.

Although by smaller margins, Joyce also won the 13th, 23rd and 41st wards, all of which Daley might have once expected to be in his column.

But some say those were never really Bill Daley voters in the first place. Many of them might not even have voted at all if not revved up by the Joyce campaign, which mounted a superior field organization to Daley.

The former U.S. Commerce secretary hurt himself with city workers and retirees in those wards when early in the campaign he said he would support amending the state constitution to loosen the public pension guarantee.

That only fed into lingering anger that Daley’s brother was responsible for creating the problem by shorting payments into their pension funds while he was mayor.

Of course, that was a policy difference the Joyce campaign was not shy about exploiting.

But there were many other factors that hurt Daley, not the least of which was $1.2 million in negative advertising poured into the race against him by a dark money PAC, the union-affiliated Fight Back for a Better Tomorrow.

Those ads stunted his momentum in the closing weeks of the campaign just as he moved to the front in the polls.

It could also just as easily be argued Daley could have won with Garry McCarthy’s and Bob Fioretti’s combined 18,000 votes.

Once you start with those kind of woulda, coulda, shoulda’s, there’s no stopping.

But what about the other end of the equation — the thinking that Joyce’s determination to stay in the race in the face of Daley’s candidacy defied what he and his family must have come to realize was a lost cause even as they poured nearly $3 million into the race, much of it their own money? And this from a Joyce clan with a reputation for being every bit as keen at political strategy, if not more so, as the Daleys, and with a particular talent for counting votes.

Well, there was the loss of that O’Hare contract that made Jeremiah Joyce rich. Originally awarded under Daley, Joyce might have hoped for a long-term extension. He didn’t get it and Emanuel took it away.

But not everyone thinks it’s quite that simple. Remember that it was Joyce who first made plans to take on Emanuel. Why should he defer to Daley instead of the other way around? Or so the thinking goes.

When Bill Daley got in the race and expected Joyce to withdraw in his favor, that reawakened some long simmering resentment, the root of which will probably never be revealed outside certain Irish political circles.

My take: Jerry Joyce ran for mayor thinking he could win.

Did it bother him or his family that one result of his candidacy was hurting Bill Daley’s campaign?

Not at all.

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