After winning Chicago’s Democratic mayoral primary, Richard M. Daley Wednesday reached out to Acting Mayor Eugene Sawyer while his staff tried to downplay the significance of the pronounced racial split in the vote.
Meanwhile, black political leaders sought to regroup in the face of a split that weakened Sawyer’s candidacy and depleted turnout in black wards.
Some black leaders called for a summit next week to organize behind the candidacy of Timothy Evans, a black alderman who is running as an independent in the April 4 general election. Evans had declined to endorse Sawyer in the Democratic primary, and many Sawyer backers blamed him for diminishing Sawyer’s chances.
“We do have a lot to lose” if Daley becomes mayor, said the Rev. Al Sampson, a Sawyer supporter. “Daley has no right to the Harold Washington legacy.” Washington, Chicago’s first black mayor, died in 1987, and the election will fill his unexpired term.
Sampson earlier had threatened to stage a boycott of white businesses to “shut the city down” if Daley defeated Sawyer. But on Wednesday he said that black voters rather than white ones should be blamed for the defeat.
“Richard Daley did not win the election last night,” Sampson said. “The black community lost it because we did not turn out.”
Daley, the son of legendary political boss Richard J. Daley, asked Sawyer for his endorsement Wednesday and sought to cast an upbeat impression of what his victory means to the city. “I think my father is looking down on me on a beautiful, warm day in Chicago,” he said.
Daley won the Democratic primary with an avalanche of white support, along with strong backing in the Latino community.
Daley Gets 56% of Votes
Election officials said Wednesday that with 98% of the precincts reporting, Daley had 56%, or 481,370 votes, to Sawyer’s 43%, or 367,919. Three other candidates on the ballot split the remaining votes.
Exit polls showed that Daley won 86% of the white vote and Sawyer 12%. Sawyer won 91% of the black vote and Daley 7%.
Despite the overwhelming racial split in the vote, political observers said that there was no evidence of the open racial hostility that has marked previous Chicago mayoral elections that pitted a black candidate against a white.
Daley Press Secretary Avis LaVelle said that Chicago’s next mayor won’t have to bridge as vast a racial chasm as the vote count indicates.
“This election was amazingly civil as Chicago politics go,” LaVelle said. “There was not the kind of strife and rhetoric that marked the ’83 election . . . “
Nevertheless, Cook County Board President George Dunne said a Sawyer endorsement of Daley is important to reunite the Democrats in Chicago.
“We don’t want to develop a city with one white party and one black party,” Dunne said. “We want a city with a Democratic Party and a Republican Party, and to do that we have to work together.”
Although the Rev. Jesse Jackson and other prominent black leaders who supported Sawyer in the primary now are backing Evans, Sawyer has not yet made an endorsement.
Ron Brown, Jackson’s floor leader at the Democratic National Convention and now Democratic National Committee chairman, has endorsed Daley and plans to campaign for him in Chicago, LaVelle said.
Sampson said he does not think Brown’s support will have much impact in black wards.
In addition to Evans, Daley will face a Republican challenger in the general election. It remained unclear Wednesday who the Republican candidate will be.
Unofficial vote counts show that write-in candidate Edward R. Vrdolyak leads Herbert Sohn, the endorsed Republican candidate, 10,712 votes to 10,240.
A portion of Vrdolyak’s votes are expected to be disqualified when votes are canvassed today for not conforming to write-in rules.
Staff writer Larry Green contributed to this story.