Daley Did Not Exactly Steal the Election for Kennedy
Occasionally someone still claims that Richard J. Daley stole the 1959 presidential election for Kennedy. The vote counts belie this claim.
There are three legs to the Chicago Democratic Party.The first is the Cook County assessor’s office.This is essential to fundraising.People pay off just to keep it honest or at least strict so they can make money on the appeals. If I ever run for political office, I want to be Cook County Assessor.
The second is the Cook County State’s Attorney.This office, along with the board of election commissioners, polices the elections. Byrne won the mayoral election because Carey, the states attorney at the time, ran down to the river front wards and grabbed the machines before the count. Both Daley’s were Cook County States Attorneys.
The third is the Mayors office, because of jobs.When people speak of old-fashioned patronage, i.e. city jobs they fail to understand that most patronage is in the private sector.Most companies doing business in or with the city of Chicago are happy to recognize referral letters from the Democratic Party.Patronage does not determine who gets to be a police officer or schoolteacher but it can affect assignment.Working against those precinct workers is corrosive in that when you beat them you are depriving them of their careers.
It is nice to have a president, it is essential to own a states attorney.In 1959, Benjamin Adamowski was the states attorney on the Republican ticket.Daley was not about to let Adamowski stay the states attorney.The only thing more crooked than a Democrat is a Republican.Daley made a deal with the Chicago Republicans to trade away Kennedy votes to beat Adamowski, mostly on the northwest side.The Kennedy count in Chicago was too low.
Once he was certain of beating Adamowski he then grabbed the money Kennedy had given him, ran downstate to the poor counties, and bought back the votes he needed from the downstate Republicans to make it right.The count downstate for Kennedy was too high.It also came in very late. They said they had problems with the count.Everyone went to bed knowing Nixon was going to be president and woke up with Kennedy.They said it was a protest vote downstate.
Daley wouldn’t have gone to that trouble for a national election.As nice as it might be to have an Irish president, the point of the whole exercise was beating Adamowski.
Everyone knew that something stank.However, when they tried a few sample recounts in Chicago, they got more votes for Kennedy than they had before. The explanation was that people said they had voted for the winner.
Nixon wanted a full recount.Someone finally asked him if he wanted to put his own people, the Republicans, in jail.He was very bitter about Illinois.It poisoned his later campaign against McGovern when they had so much money they shoved it into filing cabinets and was even used as a justification for the Bush Florida shenanigans.I don’t know what a straight count would have done.
If Illinois had gone for Nixon, then there may have been more focus on the challenges in other states, particularly Texas. Don’t say that Daley stole the election; he traded it away in Chicago and bought it back in Cairo.