RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
Chicago mayor Richard Daley is often running for a sixth term. If he wins and serves the entire term, he'll surpass his late father Richard J. Daley as the longest-serving mayor of the Windy City.
But Daley's re-election bid is being overshadowed by a federal corruption investigation into his administration's hiring practices, and that's forcing some changes in the way his campaign machine operates this time.
From Chicago, NPR's David Schaper reports.
DAVID SCHAPER: Hundreds of supporters from every corner of the city filled the Gary Comer Youth Center on Chicago's Southside yesterday, standing and clapping as Reverend Johnny Miller of Mt. Vernon Baptist church revved them up.
Reverend JOHNNY MILLER (Pastor, Mt. Vernon Baptist Church): Come on, you can do better than that. Let's receive the greatest mayor of the greatest city in the world: Mayor Richard M. Daley.
SCHAPER: As he kicked off his campaign for a record sixth term, Daley rattled off a litany of accomplishments over his 18 years in office - from reforming Chicago's beleaguered public schools and a falling murder rate to new housing and the downtown's renaissance. While he didn't directly address the many scandals that have dogged his administration for much of the last decade, Daley did acknowledge his administration has made mistakes.
Mayor RICHARD M. DALEY (Democrat, Chicago): But I do accept responsibility for things have gone wrong. Now I also know that words are not enough.
SCHAPER: One way his campaign is addressing the mistakes is by having campaign workers, many of whom are also city employees, sign sworn affidavits stating that they are not getting a job, promotion, contract or any other favor in exchange for their political work.
While waiting for the mayor's rally to begin, powerful southside Democratic Ward Committeeman William Beavers remembers when the affidavits arrived. He said he was a little put off.
Mr. WILLIAM BEAVERS (Democratic Ward Committeeman): See, I didn't like it, but if that's the way he wanted it, I had all the captains sign affidavits.
SCHAPER: Beavers says he didn't question the directive, and that he and his captains went about their work.
Mr. BEAVERS: I didn't even think about it. You know, if that's the way he want his petition, I did it. As far as I was concerned, it was just some extra work of getting notaries to notarize it and for him to sign it.
SCHAPER: Even in the rough and tumble world of Chicago politics, University of Illinois Chicago political scientist Dick Simpson says making campaign volunteers sign sworn affidavits is a new twist.
Professor DICK SIMPSON (Political Science, University of Illinois Chicago): This is the first time that's been done by any candidate.
SCHAPER: The reason for these affidavits? And ongoing federal corruption investigation into hiring practices at Chicago's City Hall. This summer, four high-ranking Daley administration officials, including the mayor's patronage chief, were convicted of corruption charges for doling out jobs, promotions, lucrative overtime opportunities, and other on-the-job perks in exchange for political favors.
Patronage in Chicago was supposed to be outlawed decades ago by a federal court order banning political hiring and firing. But Simpson and others say the Daley administration is often circumvented and even ignored the ruling, rewarding the mayor's friends, allies, political supporters and workers with lucrative jobs and contracts.
Daley's supporters say having campaign workers now sign affidavits is one way to acknowledge and address those problems. Daley political consultant David Axelrod says the campaign is being extra careful this time.
Mr. DAVID AXELROD (Daley Political Consultant): There is some overzealousness in political organizing and lines that were crossed that shouldn't have been crossed. And now there have been safeguards built into the system to prevent that kind of thing from happening again.
SCHAPER: But political scientist Dick Simpson points out that the mayor has made small ethics reforms or policy changes like this before, only after someone close to him has been caught doing something wrong.
Prof. SIMPSON: Each time there's been a corruption or a scandal in the Daley administration, there have been some minor steps to try and correct them. They haven't been successful in rooting out the very nature of the problem itself.
SCHAPER: It's clear, though, that Chicago voters have been very forgiving, reelecting Daley with a whopping 78 percent of the vote in 2003. And unless Daley himself is indicted in the next few months, even his harshest critics expect him to easily win reelection early next year.
David Schaper, NPR News, Chicago.
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