Ward PoliticsGood Government Is Good Politics
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Chicago was divided into wards, which were represented by aldermen, and each ward was divided into smaller voting precincts. The Democratic Party was organized parallel to this ward system. It had its own ward committeemen and precinct captains.
The committeemen and precinct captains brought in the vote for Democratic candidates in their wards. To appeal to voters, they provided access to city services and offered their assistance in other ways. Critics argued that not all persons or neighborhoods benefited equally under this system. But supporters argued that the system enabled communication between wards and city hall and that Mayor Daley was particularly scrupulous and fair in how he allocated services.
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But there was no doubt that the mayor knew what was going on in every part of Chicago. He knew when people died. He went to their funeral. When they had a baby he would write a note to the parents. He was a hands-on politician who loved politics and who loved his city. And in my opinion he was an honest man. He never did profit financially from his enormous responsibility and influence and power.
Jimmy Carter, President of the United States 1977-1981, interview excerpt, October 17, 2014
He was a great wake-goer, and the families appreciated that. My own father died. I thought that it was wonderful he came. He paid his respects to the people. But that’s the type of man that he was.
Gene Nolan, Security Detail for Richard J. Daley, interview excerpt, September 3, 2004
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His precinct captains meant a lot to him. And in fact in our file in the back we had a three by five card of all the precinct captains, by ward, and every year he would send them a Christmas card, which was nice. People enjoyed it, you know, liked having that. In fact I’m sure they still have them.
Kay Quinlan, Richard J. Daley’s Personal Secretary, interview excerpt, August 7, 2014
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Mayor Richard J. Daley, with Democratic [Day] at the Illinois State Fair, which was always a big event. And he, in those days, would literally bring down trainloads of people. They would have a train coming down from Chicago that would leave at 8:00 in the morning and would be taken directly into the fairgrounds. It didn’t stop at some train station and transport people. They would go directly into the fairgrounds. And they would stop the train, and all of these folks from all the ward organizations, the township organizations, would pile out of the train and they would then march around the infield of the state fairgrounds carrying signs, “The 42nd Ward Regular Democratic Organization Proudly Supports Mayor Richard J. Daley,” you know, and they would march around.
Richard J. Durbin, United States Senator, interview excerpt, September 8, 2014
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City programs and politics were not always separate. This shed and garage removal program was sponsored by both the city and the Forty-Seventh Ward Democratic Organization.