While most observers of Illinois politics are concentrated on the upcoming 2010 elections, a major vote looms just a few months after the November ballot: the race for Chicago mayor.
The city's present mayor, Richard M. Daley, has been serving in that office for over 20 years. Given questions about his popularity and his wife's health, there has been some speculation that the mayor won't be on the ballot in 2011.
But at his "State of the City" address Wednesday, Daley spoke with an eye to the future, with a tone that sounded to many like he wasn't going anywhere.
The Chicago Tribune's "Clout Street" blog spoke with several aldermen who got that impression distinctly from the mayor's speech:
"Everything he said had future goals attached to it," said Ald. Latasha Thomas, 17th. "He sounded like he at least wanted to get that started."
Ald. Daniel Solis, 25th, said he expects Daley to run again to see such long-term plans come to fruition.
"If those are going to get implemented, he's the person to do it," Solis said.
Daley announced the launch of the "Chicago Growth Accelerator," an initiative designed to bring tech-sector businesses to the city, and a city loan program for small businesses. He also spoke about the need for budget cuts, decried the scourge of city violence and touted his achievement in bringing Wal-Mart to the South Side.
If Daley does choose to run, he will likely face some opposition in the February 22 election. A recent poll shows that his popularity is at historic lows, a fact that is sure to entice challengers. The parking meter fiasco, the botched Olympics plans and corruption charges against many of his employees and aldermanic allies all put chinks in the mayor's armor.
One of the most likely possible challengers is former Inspector General David Hoffman, who lost a tight Democratic primary for Senate to Alexi Giannoulias. Hoffman performed strongly in Chicago, and has a record of reform that would match up well against perceived corruption in City Hall. He also wrote a report skewering the parking meter lease, which will win him political points.
Alderman Scott Waguespack, another young, reform-minded politician, has also openly mulled a run against Daley.
If the mayor chose not to run, then it would be open season: mayoral allies like Ald. Tom Tunney and even Rahm Emanuel might consider jumping into the fray, leading to a free-for-all election season just a few months after a wild November ballot.
For now, though, all signs point to a seventh mayoral bid from Daley.