By Derrick Blakley

CHICAGO (CBS) — With just over two weeks left until Chicagoans vote for mayor, there are signs front-runners have finally begun to emerge in the chaotic field of candidates.

CBS 2 political reporter Derrick Blakley has more.

Bill Daley tapped his D.C. connections on Friday for a big name endorsement.

“I’ve worked with him when he was Secretary of Commerce. I’ve worked with him when he was Chief of Staff at the White House. And I know what he can do,” said former Vice President Al Gore.

Just like with his backing from former Democratic chairman Howard Dean, Daley’s strategy has been to stress his experience in business and politics and float above the fray.

It may be working.

“I think he’s just relying on the fact that his name is Daley and with that name comes privilege and entitlement,” said mayoral candidate Susana Mendoza.

Mendoza lashing out at Daley, which may be the surest sign he’s gaining. According to a mayoral poll prepared for one of the campaigns, Toni Preckwinkle leads at 16 per cent, with Daley at 14, and Gery Chico at 11.

With Amara Enyia, Lori Lightfoot and Susanna Mendoza all tied at 7 per cent.

“All I asked people when I started this race was give me a chance to present Bill Daley to them,” said Daley.

Among the front-runners, Daley’s been least affected by the fallout from the FBI probe into Ald. Ed Burke (14th) and Ald. Danny Solis (25th.)

Both Mendoza and Toni Preckwinkle have had to shed hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations from
the two embattled aldermen.

Now, Mendoza is challenging Daley to a direct debate.

“Anytime, anyplace. Prove that he had the courage and the mettle to be mayor of Chicago,” Mendoza said.

Daley ignored the taunts.

“I don’t think they’d be attacking me if they didn’t think think I was gaining momentum. They ignored me for months. That was fine,” Daley said.

Given the small margins separating the front runners, those poll numbers could be quite fluid in the final weeks of the mayoral race. But Daley has raised more money than any other candidate.

Which means his message will be blanketing the airwaves in the run-up to February 26.

Derrick Blakley