‘Chicago Is At A Critical Point’: Bill Daley On Why He’s Running For Mayor

bill daley
Bill Daley at WBEZ studios on Sept. 18, 2018. Jason Marck / WBEZ
bill daley
Bill Daley at WBEZ studios on Sept. 18, 2018. Jason Marck / WBEZ

‘Chicago Is At A Critical Point’: Bill Daley On Why He’s Running For Mayor

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After Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced he would not seek a third term on Sept. 4, there was speculation about which high-profile politicians would jump into the race.

This week, Bill Daley became the first candidate to enter the field since that announcement.

Daley is the son of Mayor Richard J. Daley and the brother of Richard M. Daley. He served as Commerce Secretary under President Clinton and Chief of Staff to President Obama.

In 2014, he ran for Illinois governor on the Democratic ticket against incumbent Gov. Pat Quinn before dropping out of the race.

While he’s held top positions in the business world and Washington, he’s also a born-and-bred Chicagoan with connections to the city’s power brokers and a knowledge of its neighborhoods.

Morning Shift spoke with Daley about why he wants to run the city of Chicago.

On why he’s running after saying in 2014 he would never again run for public office

Bill Daley: Chicago is at a critical point. Obviously, we have lots of issues. I’ve spent my entire life in Chicago as a resident. And my kids, my grandkids, all my family is here. We love the city like so many other people do. And I took a look at it and said, “This is home.”

When I flirted with the idea of running for governor, it was a little foreign to me quite frankly. You had an incumbent governor [Pat Quinn], a democrat, somebody who had lots of difficulties and I thought was damaged and probably couldn’t win—and didn’t. And we ended up with Republican Governor Bruce Rauner, whose had a dismal record for four years. I was thinking in the summer of ‘13 that I could change that. It didn’t happen. At that point I thought “OK, that’s it, I’m not going to engage in elected office.” But this is an opportunity that I saw that I think I can add something to the discussion and the future of this city.

‘I’m in it to win it’

Daley: It’s a tough difficult thing. But [my family and friends] understand that public service has been a big piece of our entire family, whether it’s running for office, or being involved in communities, or charitable organization and education issues, just like so many other families. So I think they understand that there’s a passion in me about this, that probably wasn’t there the last time i toyed with running for something. I’m in it to win it.

On waiting until after Rahm bowed out

Daley: I was as surprised as anyone. I’ve known Rahm for 30 years. We’ve had our ups and downs as friends who—for 30 years—you have disputes and disagreements. Even though I had been encouraged by ppl to run against him […] I didn’t think that was the right thing to do, to be frank with you. Even though I may disagree with him as a friend, that would not have been the way that I act. When he announced that he wasn’t going to run, I said I’m going to take a serious look at this. I began to talk to my wife, my kids, my close friends and family, and made a decision that I think I can add something to this and want to do it and be part of the future of this city.

His take on Rahm Emanuel’s tenure

Daley: I thought he’s brought short-term economic stability to the city right now, I think our finances are stable short term. And I think the school improvements going on right now are serious improvements for the kids of Chicago. Still a long way to go, but I’ve seen up close how difficult of a job that is and the stress and strain on families of people in those roles, so I will try mightily not to be critical of those who try to sacrifice and do on behalf of the people of Chicago.

On the Daley name

Daley: I think people’s memories are pretty short—it has been eight years. And the turnover in this city—the demographics of the city, and people moving in—look it, I’ve been living with this my whole life so I’m not changing my name. There’s good and bad about it. Some people liked Rich and thought his tenure was great. Others said it was terrible. So I’ll let the voters decide—hopefully not about Richard M. or Richard J., but about Bill Daley. Because we are different.

Advice from his brother, former mayor Richard M. Daley

Daley: His attitude was, if you really want to do this, do it. Just don’t debate it, don’t worry about it, just go off and do it and do the best you can and everything will work out one way or the other.

This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity. Click the “play” button to listen to the entire conversation.