UPDATED 01/13/11 – 5:32 p.m.
CHICAGO (CBS) – Former Chicago Board of Education president Gery Chico picked up another major endorsement Thursday, when Ald. Edward Burke (14th) – the powerful chair of the City Council Finance Committee – backed him to replace Mayor Richard M. Daley.
“I’m in favor of him, he’s a wonderful public servant, he’s a good candidate and I’m going to do everything I can in the 14th Ward to encourage the voters to vote for him,” Burke told CBS 2 Chief Correspondent Jay Levine Thursday.
Burke, the City Council’s most powerful and longest-serving member, touted Chico’s record of public service in Chicago, including work as Daley’s chief of staff, school board president, Park District Board President and City Colleges boss.
The endorsement comes as no surprise, as Chico and Burke have been longtime friends and political allies. Chico was once a staffer on the council’s Finance Committee and members of his family are 14th Ward residents.
“There’s no secret of the fact that Gery and I have been close since he worked for me as a staffer when he was going to law school at night,” Burke said. “He’s supported me and I’ve supported him. In fact, when he ran for Senate (in 2004), he carried the 14th Ward with over 60 percent of the vote.”
Many aldermen have been afraid to buck mayoral frontrunner Rahm Emanuel by endorsing any of the other candidates, but Burke dove right in to help Chico from the beginning.
Burke’s 14th Ward Democratic Regular Democratic Organization circulated Chico’s nominating petitions and, during city budget hearings, Burke’s questioning of Chicago Board of Elections head Langdon Neal helped set the stage for the lengthy – and, thus far, unsuccessful – effort to knock Emanuel off the ballot.
Burke was always believed to be a member of the unofficial “Stop Rahm” movement in the City Council, a group of Chicago aldermen and Democratic ward bosses who have been pushing for a viable alternative to Emanuel, who they fear would have the same dictatorial style as Daley.
Asked how Chico’s relationship with aldermen would differ from the other major candidates – former White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, former U.S. Senator Carol Moseley Braun and City Clerk Miguel del Valle – Burke said “That remains to be seen.”
“But take the example of what the members of the council about Gery when he was approved” as head of the City Colleges of Chicago.
Ald. Ricardo Munoz (22nd) is a del Valle supporter, but he’s not an Emanuel fan either.
“He hasn’t been to one community forum, period. He’s on TV and he’s spending millions and millions of dollars on TV,” Munoz said.
Another Emanuel ad hit the air Thursday. To be fair, Emanuel also has been talking to voters, with the most aggressive “L” stop, street corner, and local business schedule of any of the candidates.
Chico was the only other candidate on TV as of Thursday.
Carol Moseley Braun was campaigning on the West Side with former rival candidate, U.S. Rep. Danny Davis on Thursday. The West Side is Davis’ home turf and it showed in the reception he received on Thursday.
There are those who believe Braun and Chico are running neck and neck for the right to face Emanuel in a run-off if Emanuel fails go get more than 50 percent of the vote on Feb. 22.
Ald. Ed Smith (28th), who is stepping down after his current term, assessed Chico and Braun’s strengths as mayoral contenders.
“She’s been a senator, an ambassador, … been in the city for a long time, has some presence in the city of Chicago and I think she can probably sell that,” Smith said of Braun.
Chico “has been around Board of Education, has good business background. He does understand the city of Chicago, has a great relationship with the people of the city of Chicago,” Smith added.
Burke’s endorsement of Chico came after U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez threw his support behind Chico on Sunday, a vital development in Chico’s attempt to get support from Latinos, who make up nearly a third of Chicago’s population.
Gutierrez endorsed Chico over City Clerk Miguel del Valle, another Latino candidate, and other candidates, including former White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel and former U.S. Sen. Carol Moseley Braun.
Chicago’s Latino population has grown significantly since 1989, when Daley was first elected to office.
Asked how the mayoral candidates would fare if the vote were up to the 50 current aldermen, council members’ answers on Thursday ranged from a diplomatic “it’d be a toss-up” to the probably more accurate prediction that Braun would get the most votes, though with less than 50 percent. Emanuel, not surprisingly, would come in last.