Bill Daley Aims to Extend Family Dynasty With Chicago Mayoral Bid

(Bloomberg) -- Bill Daley has been a lawyer, banker and rainmaker. He has managed companies and national political campaigns, served as President Bill Clinton’s commerce secretary and President Barack Obama’s chief of staff.

Now, the one-time JPMorgan Chase & Co. executive wants to run the nation’s third-most-populous city at a time that it faces serious financial challenges and stubbornly high rates of violent crime.

Daley, 70, on Monday launched his bid to fill an office now held by his close friend and one-time White House colleague, Rahm Emanuel, who plans to vacate City Hall next year. Daley’s father and brother, Richard J. Daley and Richard M. Daley, led Chicago for a total of 43 years before Emanuel took office.

With his business experience and centrist style, Daley could quickly become a favorite candidate among Chicago’s corporate leaders while testing the city’s appetite for extending his family’s political reign.

“This is not about the last eight years or 40 years,” Daley said in an interview on Bloomberg Television. “This is about the next four years. I’m not running for or against anybody’s previous administrations.”

As Emanuel has, Daley criticized President Donald Trump for not paying more attention to problems facing the country’s biggest cities.

“There’s a very strong feeling in this city that the Trump policies have not been good for urban America,” Daley said. “It would be great if this president would focus a little on urban policy and how to improve the lives of people in urban America. But so far, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of emphasis on that.”

In a second interview off camera, Daley acknowledged the political risks of being seen as too cozy with corporate leaders.

“I hope to have support from the downtown business community, and I hope to have as much if not a heck of a lot more from communities throughout the city,” he said. “You can’t be one or the other. If you’re just a downtown guy, you’re dead.”

Emanuel, 58, announced Sept. 4 that he wouldn’t seek a third term as mayor, triggering a political free-for-all and rattling some business executives and bond investors. After replacing Daley’s brother in 2011, Emanuel has sometimes assigned blame to his predecessor for the city’s financial problems, which stem largely from the city’s long-running failure to save enough money to cover retirement benefits for employees.

Roughly a dozen people have outlined their intentions to run, but Daley is easily the biggest name to announce a candidacy for the Feb. 26 election.

The next mayor will inherit daunting financial challenges. The city’s four pensions are short $28 billion. While Emanuel has taken steps to shore up the retirement system by raising property and utility taxes and boosting the city’s contributions, it hasn’t been enough. The pensions are still only 27 percent funded, and more revenue must be found in the coming years as required payments jump.

If elected, Daley said he’d sit down with all the players -- unions, business and community organizations -- to address the city’s massive financial challenges.

“Those who think that all you have to do here is just raise taxes or raise revenue are unrealistic,” he said. “That’s not going to work, so we’ve got to find ways to be creative.”

Investors have voiced uncertainty about the fiscal outlook for Chicago in the wake of Emanuel’s decision not to run again. The bond market had praised his work to address the fiscal problems. Moody’s Investors Service, which had cut Chicago’s rating to below investment grade in 2015, raised the city’s outlook to stable in July, citing some of the steps taken by Emanuel’s administration. S&P Global Ratings and Fitch Ratings consider the city’s bonds investment-grade.

Emanuel was Obama’s first White House chief of staff and Daley was his second, filling the post after Emanuel left the job to run for mayor in 2010. Emanuel, who sought Bill Daley’s advice almost weekly when he was chief of staff, recommended him as a replacement when he told Obama he was mulling a mayoral campaign.

The youngest of seven children, Bill Daley was also a political mentor to Emanuel, who worked with him in the Clinton White House. At JPMorgan, he served as a Midwest chairman and most recently was a managing partner at Argentiere Capital AG.

While Daley has witnessed the rigors of political campaigns since he was a boy, watching his father and brother run for mayor and another brother run successfully for Cook County commissioner, his first attempt at electoral office fell short fast.

Three months into his bid for the Democratic nomination for Illinois governor, in 2013, he decided he didn’t like the view from the candidate’s side of the lectern and exited.

“I cannot commit to what the voters may need,” Daley said at the time. “It’s really not about a campaign of six months or 14 months. It really is about a minimum of five to nine years to begin to straighten out this state."

Daley’s entry was already drawing jabs from other candidates.

"This looks more like a crass, calculated grab at political power than an honest mission of public service," Garry McCarthy, a candidate who once led Chicago’s police force under Emanuel, said in a statement. "I respect Bill’s service and experience, but I fear that he, too, is more in touch with global business than the urgent needs of our neighborhoods."

The candidate field looks likely to grow even bigger. Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle will announce this week that she, too, will run for mayor, the Chicago Tribune reported Monday after Daley’s announcement.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.