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Chicago Mayor's Popularity Dips as Associates Are Indicted

For Daley, widely credited with improving public services and the city's fractious racial climate, the blows to his credibility seem to be falling harder.

"It's like the water has risen from his chest to his neck," political consultant Don Rose said. "This is the guy who drives down alleys looking for ruts and he doesn't know what's going on down the hall from him with the guy who's responsible for patronage?"

"What we've got," said Rose, referring to Sorich, "is a guy who was directly responsible to Daley, appointed by Daley, Daley knows his family. You can't get any closer, short of one of the Daley brothers."

Sorich's father was an official photographer for Daley's father, imperious longtime Chicago mayor Richard J. Daley. Sorich and his co-defendant, Patrick Slattery, an administrator in the streets and sanitation department, both are 42 and come from the Daley family's political power base in the South Side neighborhood of Bridgeport.

Sorich sometimes rode to work with Daley's brother John, a Cook County commissioner. Slattery married one of Richard Daley's personal secretaries. After their arrests, Daley said he was "personally saddened."

Adding to the political intrigue, Rep. Jesse L. Jackson Jr., a Chicago Democrat, has emerged as perhaps the mayor's sharpest critic. He is doing little to quash speculation that he may run for mayor in 2007.

Jackson said of Daley: "It's hard to be a detail mayor and a hands-on mayor, which is what he has a reputation for being, and then to say he knows nothing. Which raises the question 'Who's running our town?' "

A Chicago Tribune poll in May showed Jackson in a statistical dead heat with Daley, with 23 percent undecided. The survey, conducted before the most serious allegations surfaced, showed Daley with an approval rating of 53 percent, a majority but the lowest level since he became mayor in 1989.

Ricardo Munoz, an alderman on the near South Side, said this is a key period for the 63-year-old mayor.

"Voters aren't holding him personally accountable just yet, but it's getting awfully close to that," Munoz said. "It's a Dr. Jekyll-and-Mr. Hyde thing. They love the mayor for his flowerpots and clean garbage cans, but when they start to hear about corruption, they turn on him very fast."

Cindi Canary, director of the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform, said the scandals have "done a lot of damage to Daley."

"Many of us are expecting a lot more indictments. We're expecting it to go higher until it gets to the mayor," Canary said.

But she added: "The mayor, to his credit, when these things happen does . . . fire people and changes things around." She also questions Jackson's viability.

"It depends on a lot of stars aligning," she said. "He really needs to look to building a political organization within the city. He would appeal to large segments of the public, but he's also, while in Congress, oriented more to the south suburbs than the city."

David Axelrod, one of Daley's closest political consultants, said the mayor's political future "will be determined by the good works he has done in the city for the last 16 years."

"People in Chicago," Axelrod said, "are not going to say 'Stop the presses!' to know that there is politics in government."

Documents in the patronage case allege a vast fraud. An affidavit signed by U.S. Labor Department investigator Irene Lindow said Sorich and his "co-schemers" conducted sham interviews and inflated the results, often rejecting more qualified candidates. Loyalty to certain political groups, aldermen and labor unions tended to be decisive.

Staff writer Kari Lydersen contributed to this report.

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