1989 Chicago mayoral special election

The Chicago mayoral election of 1989 saw Democratic nominee Richard M. Daley win election to the remainder of an unexpired mayoral term with a 14% margin of victory. This marked a return for the Daley family to the office of mayor. Daley was elected over Alderman Timothy Evans, the nominee of the newly formed Harold Washington Party, and the Republican nominee Ed Vrdolyak.

The election was held two years earlier than the next regularly scheduled mayoral election due of the death in office of Harold Washington. Eugene Sawyer had been appointed Mayor by the City Council to serve until the special election. He was unseated by Daley in the Democratic primary.

Democratic primary

Richard M. Daley won the Democratic primary, defeating Eugene Sawyer, who had been appointed mayor by City Council following the death of Harold Washington. He also faced Sheila A. Jones and James C. Taylor (State Senator who had also been chief of staff in Jane Byrne's mayoral administration).


  • Richard M. Daley
  • Sheila A. Jones, candidate for mayor of Chicago in 1987
  • Eugene Sawyer, incumbent mayor
  • James C. Taylor, state senator, former chief of staff to Chicago mayor Jane Byrne

  • Edward M. Burke, alderman
  • Lawrence S. Bloom, alderman

    ;Denied ballot access
  • Timothy C. Evans, alderman
  • Juan Soliz


    In December, Edward M. Burke withdrew from the race and endorsed Daley. Just under two weeks before the day of the primary, alderman Lawrence S. Bloom withdrew his candidacy and endorsed Sawyer. Bloom had entered the race in September 1988, and had originally started his campaign near the front of the pack, benefiting from what the press referred to as a "squeaky clean" reputation.

    African American support was reported to be split between Sawyer and Evans before the latter was taken off of the ballot.

    During the campaign, Daley and sawyer avoided lodging personal attacks, and each called for racial harmony.



    Daley won a majority of the vote in 31 of the city's 50 wards, with Sawyer winning a majority of the vote in the remaining 19 wards.

    ;Results by wardVoter turnout was 200,000 less in the primary than it had been in the regularly-scheduled mayoral primary two years prior. The decrease was even more pronounced in black neighborhoods than it had been in white neighborhoods.

    According to a The New York TimesWBBM-TV poll found that Daley received 91% of the white vote, to Sawyers 8%. It found, in contrast, that Sawyer received 94% of the black vote, to Daley's 5%. The poll also found that jewish and hispanic voters, who Sawyer had hoped to capture the support of, had strongly went for Daley. It found that Daley got 83% of the Jewish vote, to Sawyer's 15%. It also found that Daley got 84% of the hispanic vote, to Sawyer's 15%. Additionally, the poll found that three-fourths of whites that had previously voted for Harold Washington voted for Daley.

    Republican primary


  • William J. Grutzmacher.
  • Kenneth R. Hurst
  • Herbert Sohn, urologist

    ;Write-in candidates
  • Edward Vrdolyak, alderman, former chairman of the Cook County Democratic Party, 1987 Illinois Solidarity Party nominee for mayor

  • John Holowinski
  • Edmund Kelly, former Chicago Park District superintendent
  • Bernard Stone, Chicago alderman

    ;Denied ballot access
  • Alfred Walter Balciunas,
  • Edward L. Bowe
  • Arthur J. Jones, neo-Nazi
  • Gene Kulichenko
  • Dean Rosenburg
  • Jon Silverstein


    Less than two weeks before the day of the primary election, a movement emerged to draft 1987 Illinois Solidarity Party nominee Edward Vrdolyak as a write-in candidate for the Republican primary. Vrdolyak obliged, launching a last-minute a write-in campaign for the nomination only a week before the late February primary. He narrowly defeated Herbert Sohn. Sohn had held the backing of the Republican Party establishment.

    An additional candidate seeking the nomination, John Holowinski, had withdrawn from the race in late January. Former parks superintendent Edmund Kelly was another individual who was initially a candidate but withdrew before the primary.

    Harold Washington Party nomination

    Timothy C. Evans, who had been unable to run for the Democratic nomination due to issues regarding his petition, received the Harold Washington Party's nomination.

    Independent candidates

    Independent candidate Peter Davis Kauss saw his name excluded from the ballot due to issues with his petition.

    General election


    Daley won the election by a double-digit margin.

    Daley became the fifth (and, currently, the most recent) mayor to come from the city's Bridgeport neighborhood (after Edward J. Kelly, Martin H. Kennelly, Richard J. Daley, and Michael Bilandic).Daley carried a majority of the vote in 31 of the city's 50 wards, with Evans carrying a majority of the vote in the remaining 19 wards.

    Vroldyak only saw double-digit percentage of the votes in the 10th ward, which he had previously represented as an alderman. Elsewhere he saw only single-digit percentage of the vote.

    ;Results by ward