In Post-Daley Era, the Status Quo of Ward Politics Is Challenged

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(New York Times) — Growing up in a predominantly Italian neighborhood on Chicago’s Far Northwest Side, John Rice tagged along while his father, Charlie, visited voters on behalf of the 36th Ward Regular Democratic Organization.  “We used to go out in the precinct,” Mr. Rice recalled last week. “We would have five glasses of wine or a coffee and talk, and it was just nice. Everybody knew everybody.”  Mr. Rice, 42, inherited his father’s precinct-captain post when he turned 18 and slowly rose through the ranks to become the driver for the ward’s powerful alderman, William J. P. Banks. When Mr. Banks stepped down in 2009, Mayor Richard M. Daley honored his retiring loyalist’s request and appointed Mr. Rice to complete his term.  But Mr. Rice’s first appearance on the ballot in last month’s City Council election did not go as smoothly as he had hoped. With 48 percent of the vote in a six-way race, Mr. Rice came up short of the majority needed to win election to a full term and was forced into the runoff vote on April 5 against Nicholas Sposato, a firefighter who was second with 24 percent.  Mr. Rice’s struggle is being repeated in other wards across Chicago, particularly those on the North Side, as longtime political brokers fight to maintain their grip on power in the wake of Mr. Daley’s retirement.

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