Does the rest of Illinois care about Chicago's race for mayor? | WBEZ
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Eight Forty-Eight

Does the rest of Illinois care about Chicago's race for mayor?

With only a week left until the election, Chicagoans are really focused on the race for mayor. So are - it turns out - people around Illinois. That's despite the sometimes combative relationship between the city and the rest of the state.

You can't get farther from Chicago, but still be in Illinois, than the Mississippi River town of Cairo. It's straight south on I-57 until there's just no Illinois left.

WILSON: My name is Barbara Wilson, and I'm the editor of the Cairo Citizen newspaper.

The offices of this weekly paper are a 374-mile drive from Chicago's City Hall and, if you listen to Wilson, a million miles from caring about Chicago politics.

WILSON: There are other issues down here more pressing to us down here than what Mayor Daley does, or who's going to be crowned to succeed Mayor Daley.

If you hear resentment in Wilson's voice, it's because she thinks Chicago has too much influence on her part of the state.

WILSON: We have Chicago politicians making laws for Southern Illinois, and you know that's really not right.
HUDZIK: Any particular laws stick out - recent laws?
WILSON: The no smoking law. That's the big one down here. The no smoking law.

There's no doubt Chicago does have a lot of muscle in the General Assembly. A third of the state's legislative districts include at least some Chicago voters.

RIGHTER: It's not unusual to see here in the General Assembly when it's announced that the City of Chicago - which, obviously, Mayor Daley is the other word for that, is opposed to something, that moves a lot of votes.

Dale Righter is a Republican state senator from Charleston, in east central Illinois. He claims some members of the legislature give the impression they answer directly to the mayor.

Of course, mayoral opposition doesn't mean a bill is dead. Daley recently lobbied against a pension reform bill he said would force Chicago to raise property taxes. But it passed.

HUDZIK: My guess would be you wouldn't be the target of those lobbying efforts anyway.
RIGHTER: You might be surprised how often representatives from the City of Chicago come and see me. And I appreciate when they do. Because...the city of Chicago is a pretty important entity in the state of Illinois. It affects my constituents.

For example, Righter says, if a Chicago business shuts down...

RIGHTER: There very well could be, and likely is, some entity in my district that has an economic connection to that business and that will be detrimental to that entity in my district as well.

That same point was made by Rick Baker. He leads the chamber of commerce in the Quad Cities, in Western Illinois.

BAKER: Any time you have a dominant economy like that - whether it's a business in a local region or if it's a city like Chicago in the state, they, I guess, they have the right to demand some of the special attention perhaps.

Plus, Baker adds, the importance of Chicago's mayoral election isn't just economic; it's about quality of life. He visits friends in Chicago.

BAKER: Make even just a day trip up occasionally to do some shopping. Or enjoy a concert or a play. It's only about a 2-and-a-half hour drive from my doorstep to the Loop.

Don Peloquin has a much shorter drive downtown. He's the longtime mayor of Blue Island.

PELOQUIN: The City of Blue Island is on the South border of Chicago at 119th and Western. We abut the Morgan Park, the Beverley, the Roseland neighborhoods.

That means that just about everything that happens in those neighborhoods, in Chicago, spills over into his town. So if a new Chicago mayor can improve public transit - great - that'll help Blue island, too. If the mayor can help property values rebound, Blue Island stand to benefit.

Of course, gains for Chicago don't always boost Blue Island.

PELOQUIN: We had a Jewel store in our town. They closed to move into Chicago, so they closed our store, so now our people don't have a Jewel store.
HUDZIK: I guess that's a hard thing to complain to the mayor about he's probably happy that it's in Chicago.
PELOQUIN: Yeah. Yeah.

Not that he's been able to have regular conversations with Mayor Daley. Peloquin says he hopes he'll have a better chance of getting appointments with the new mayor.

PELOQUIN: Yeah, it's got to be easier than Mayor Daley.

Peloquin says he's keeping a close eye on the mayor's race because he considers his town practically a neighborhood of Chicago.

Other nearby residents are apparently interested in the outcome, as well. Rahm Emanuel and Gery Chico - the top-fundraising candidates for mayor - got big contributions from people and business in the suburbs: a total of more than 3-and-a-half million dollars worth.

Music Button: Michael Bloomfield, "Carmelita Skiffle", from the CD Don't Say I Ain't Your Man!, (Columbia)

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