THE NEXT MAYOR OF CHICAGO
When Richard J. Daley suffered a heart attack last December, the political animals in the Second City hardly waited an hour before announcing their candidacies to succeed him. His temporary successor is a weak figure whom the Ward Committeemen support because he is weak. This is the old paradigm of "the King vs. the Barons" and the suddenly liberated barons of the Democratic machine like the taste of freedom.
Chicago is popularly known as "the City which works," in contrast with New York or Detroit, we suppose, but this conceals a deep rot. Daley and the machine were always able to keep groups such as the unions and the business royalists satisfied, but at the expense of the city's ghetto residents and its industrial base. The barons may enjoy a few years of power and luxury, but Chicago is not likely to "work" much longer.
The Libertarian Party is running a campaign for mayor. Starting very late (when newspapers announced that the Federal district court had reduced the number of signatures required for ballot status from over 65,000 to 20,000) the Chicago L.P. printed petitions, literature, found itself a candidate, and hit the pavement. The issue is in the Federal district court again, because the city Board of Election Commissioners doesn't want the Democratic nominee to have libertarian competition.
The Big Two candidates are pretending that the election isn't happening. Nobody expects the Republican to win (the GOP in Chicago is about as weak as its sister organization in Atlanta), and he has almost no money. The Democrat isn't saying anything because, as Mayor Daley taught, to take a stand on the issues only makes people notice that some of them disagree with you. There is no candidate who appeals to the Lake Shore Liberals—except Gregg Vavra, if he wins the case in Federal court.
THE SOCIAL ISSUES
The largest campaign expenditure to date has been the reprinting of 5,000 copies of Ralph Raico's booklet, "Gay Rights, A Libertarian Approach." These were passed out at the annual winter carnival, the major social event of the season for Chicago's gay community. Over 7,000 people were there, 3,000 booklets were passed out, and 1,100 signatures were collected by about six libertarian workers in four hours. Fewer than 30 copies of the booklet were discarded by the crowd leaving the ballroom. The publisher of the major Chicago gay newspaper came up and identified himself as a Libertarian Party supporter.
One theory of the campaign is that a special effort must be made to dispel any "conservative" image. The statewide campaign for Governor last year emphasized the taxation issue, but sample feedback has indicated that this was seen as a conservative position. A motivating idea is that the gay intellectuals, who can most easily appreciate the personal stake they have in libertarian issues, might be the copper wire through which the electricity of these ideas can enlighten the entire social class of intelligentsia. As socialism becomes more and more absurd as a proposal, there is an opportunity here.
The Chicago public schools have been under sharp criticism for many years, as reading scores have declined with regular precision. The Black community knows that the schools are not educating their children, the large Catholic ethnic communities are struggling to keep their private schools funded, and the Chicago Teachers Union (already paid above the median for the nation) is discussing a strike next September. The Libertarian Party is proposing the "separation of Education and State" and presenting the venerable voucher idea as an immediate alternative leading to total phasing out of the government schools.
The Chicago vice squad has long been a reflection of the conservative morality of the Mayor's office. Recently there was a round-up of prostitutes, closing of pornography bookshops, and the usual rhetoric about "our children." The Libertarian campaign has emphasized the fact that women only solicit on the streets because they can't advertise in the phone book. The proposal is to open up the massage parlors and the bordellos, to get the women "off of the streets." What could be more logical? One of Chicago's most famous madams, "Bunny," has endorsed Gregg Vavra for Mayor.
THE ECONOMIC ISSUES
The conviction of Mayor Daley's friend, Alderman Tom Keane, last year for bribery in connection with zoning laws, and the conviction of former Republican county chairman Floyd Fulle for extortion under similar circumstances, provides an opportunity to discuss the political corruption which always accompanies government regulation of the economy. The campaign emphasizes that it is not the men, but the system, which is to blame. The words "Houston has no zoning laws" are used in several contexts—jobs, revitalization of the neighborhoods, lower rents, and honest politicians.
The campaign is, of course, in debt. The court case has many expenses and publicity is nowhere near its full potential. The official ballot committee (registered with the authorities for reporting purposes) is the Chicago Libertarian Assn., with L.P.I. Chairperson Milton Mueller as its head. Further information and donations can be exchanged through P.O. Box 1776, Chicago, IL 60690. If the Libertarian Candidate, Gregg Vavra, had even one-tenth the money the GOP candidate has, he would easily draw more votes. The election will be held June 7, 1977.
This article originally appeared in print under the headline "Frontlines".