Less than a week before Election Day, former Chicago Alderman Edward R. Vrdolyak announced Wednesday that he will run as a write-in candidate for mayor in the Republican primary.
The controversial Vrdolyak, who had kept GOP officials in suspense before announcing at the last minute in December that he would not enter the race, said Wednesday that he had changed his mind.
"I'll be your candidate," he told 600 cheering supporters at a Chicago restaurant. "I'd rather be drafted by you than by any political party."
Vrdolyak's candidacy is widely seen as a potential threat to the Democratic campaign of State's Atty. Richard M. Daley, that party's front-runner.
Voters Can Switch Parties
Votes generally are split along racial lines in Chicago. Daley, who is white, is running against black Acting Mayor Eugene Sawyer on the Democratic primary ballot. Voters can select either ballot Tuesday, no matter what their registration.
Vrdolyak, a white who until recently was a Democrat, is hoping to draw enough white votes away from Daley so that he can win the Republican primary. But James Dvorak, chairman of the Cook County Republicans, said the plan could backfire.
"It isn't racist to say this, but voters in the Southwest and the Northwest parts of the city are trying to get a white mayor back in," Dvorak said. Those voters might resent any effort by Vrdolyak to split the white vote.
Indeed, some of Vrdolyak's staunchest supporters are whites who hold a grudge against Daley for splitting the white vote in 1983, the year Harold Washington, Chicago's first black mayor, was elected.
"I don't like Daley. Daley played politics with this city twice," said Tom Dunn, a blue-collar worker who stood with a group of men who all said they would rather vote for Sawyer than Daley.
Vrdolyak is counting on siphoning off from 10,000 to 15,000 Daley voters, said Dvorak, who added: "I don't think it's going to happen."
If Vrdolyak could accomplish his goal, it could drastically alter the so-far lackluster mayoral campaign. If he snatches enough Daley votes, he not only could win the Republican primary, but also possibly could ensure Daley's defeat.
This would make Vrdolyak the only white candidate in the three-way race in the general election in April, facing Sawyer and black Alderman Timothy Evans, who plans to run as an independent. In a racially divided city with almost equal black and white populations, that is an enviable spot.
In waging his write-in campaign, Vrdolyak is bucking the Republican organization, which has endorsed Herbert Sohn, a little-known urologist. Vrdolyak on Wednesday said the party had deliberately chosen a weak candidate, and he called Sohn "a sacrificial lamb" to powerful Democratic interests.
"Mr. Vrdolyak elected not to run when he had the opportunity to be the endorsed Republican candidate," Dvorak said. He said he believes that Vrdolyak waited until now to enter the race in this way in order to create enough controversy to cause Democrats to switch parties.
Write-in candidacies usually do not stand a chance. But Vrdolyak, who ran unsuccessfully for mayor in 1987 and who led the white forces that opposed Washington, is much better known than Sohn.