Sawyer Chosen as Chicago Mayor in Angry 4 A.M. Vote
Eugene Sawyer, a black alderman with ties to the old-guard Chicago Democratic machine, was elected by the City Council early today to succeed the late Mayor Harold Washington.
The council voted 29 to 19 to elect Sawyer over Alderman Timothy Evans, who had served as Washington’s floor leader in the council. The final vote came at 4 a.m., following two hours of nominating speeches that were delayed by boisterous parliamentary wrangling and demonstrations by supporters of Evans.
Much of Sawyer’s support came from white aldermen who opposed Washington during his tenure in office. Evans garnered his votes from a coalition of black, Hispanic and liberal white alderman who had backed Washington.
Pledges to Continue
Sawyer, 54, was sworn in shortly after the vote and pledged in a prepared acceptance speech to continue programs and policies introduced by Washington.
“Let me end all speculation now; the reform movement initiated by Mayor Harold Washington will remain intact and go forward. There shall be no cronyism or favoritism,” Sawyer said.
“When Harold Washington proclaimed the machine is dead he was speaking the absolute truth. We can overcome our differences and heal our wounds to become an even greater city.”
As the 43rd mayor of Chicago, Sawyer will serve until 1989 when a special election is held in accordance with state law.
Links to ‘Machine’
Sawyer is the longest-serving black in the City Council and has ties to the old-guard “machine” Democrats. Evans, 44, a Washington protege, is chairman of the powerful Finance Committee.
About 5,000 people, most of them supporters of Evans, showed up at City Hall Tuesday night for an emergency council meeting. The meeting began nearly four hours later, and council members quickly voted to recess. The council did not reconvene until midnight.
Although the majority of the demonstrators were stuck in the cold outside City Hall, many of them were inside and let the aldermen hear them chant “We want Evans” and “No more deals.”
Shouting, Fist Pounding
The passion shown by the demonstrators spilled onto the floor of the council with aldermen shouting and pounding their fists on desks during debate over the two candidates.
Alderman Bobby Rush, a former Black Panther, echoed the sentiments of many protesters when he said, “When you see these individuals (white aldermen) rallying behind a black man, then you know a deal has been cut that cuts the people of the city of Chicago out.”
Black Alderman Bill Henry, one of Sawyer’s strongest supporters, acknowledged that deals were made. “I will tell the world that I cut deals, because everybody in this chamber did,” he said.
Relatives Placed in Jobs
Sawyer has used his political influence to place at least 16 relatives and political supporters on the city payroll, the Chicago Sun-Times reported today.
The Chicago Transit Authority leads the list of government agencies, employing at least eight of Sawyer’s family members, the newspaper said.
Ernest Sawyer, the alderman’s brother, earns $70,200 a year as CTA planning chief. Ernest Sawyer’s wife, mother-in-law and two sisters-in-law also hold jobs at the CTA.
Bernice Sawyer, 76, the family matriarch, acknowledged the patronage, saying, “If you can’t help your family, who can you help?”