The "Epton for Mayor" signs and pamphlets were gone today from the 47th Ward Regular Democratic Headquarters on Lawrence Avenue. The only reminder of election night was the stench of spilled beer.
On the streets of the 47th Ward and in other white ethnic areas there was a mood of apprehension and quiet resignation after election of Rep. Harold Washington (D-Ill.) as Chicago's first black mayor.
At City Hall downtown, the talk was of reconciliation and mending wounds. Alderman Gene Sculster of the 47th Ward was there, trying to get to the head of the parade.
"It's reorganization time. It's regrouping time," said Sculster, one of eight Democratic alderman who openly supported Republican Bernard E. Epton. "I am reaching out with an olive branch and saying, 'We have to work together.' "
Alderman Lawrence Bloom, a longtime Washington supporter and one of few independents on the City Council, took a cynical view:
"They're all trying to find some way to ingratiate themselves with the powers that be. In Chicago, the operation runs on grease. So they're all out looking for the grease, and they'll probably find it.
"There are a lot of favors to go out in this city in terms of jobs and city contracts. These people have been in the favor business for a long time, and they'll figure out a way to stay in it." Bloom said the process may be slow and painful for party leaders who deserted Washington for Epton. "They will be decapitated," he said half-jokingly. "When they've been decapitated, we'll suck the blood out. When all the blood is sucked out, they will be rehabilitated."
On arrival in Florida tonight for a vacation, Epton said he will not seek a recount, news services reported. "Washington won it fair and square. I'll do the best I can to help Harold run a good city," Epton said.
Epton, who did not admit defeat until after he left Chicago, said that he had wanted to concede earlier but that aides advised him not to, United Press International reported.
As he left his hotel headquarters on election night and was cornered by reporters, the multimillionaire attorney said he wished Washington luck with the city's troubled finances, adding, "Maybe he'll learn to pay his bills promptly." This was a reference to Washington's conviction for failing to file income-tax returns for four years and his history of late payment of bills. Both were issues in the bitter campaign.
Epton, who earlier on election night had called members of the media covering his campaign "slime" and complained that black friends had deserted him, added: " . . . Certainly in the future, I'll save a lot of money in charitable causes."
Epton supporters, such as Democratic alderman Roman Pucinski, expressed disappointment with Epton's performance and remarks. "If they had reopened the polls, he would have lost a lot of votes that he got," he said.
Pucinski, one of Washington's harshest critics during the campaign, was one of the most conciliatory Democratic defectors today. He said some persons in his white ethnic ward feared that Washington's commitment to civil rights would lead to scattering public housing in white areas and "changing the mosaic of neighborhoods." But, he added: "Our people accept the inevitable. He is mayor. I fought Washington hard, but I think he has the capacity to become a great mayor."
Chicago technically has a weak-mayor system of government, but the City Council has been dominated in recent decades by strong-willed mayors. It appeared today that Washington would be able to exert control over the Council to push many of his reform programs.
Washington's conciliatory words during his acceptance speech early this morning also encouraged party bosses. Some, however, remained apprehensive.
"Nobody knows what will happen," said Vito Marzullo, 85, dean of the City Council, who had described Washington as "a nitwit" and refused to support him. "He's elected mayor. It all depends on him," Marzullo said.
"I'm not going to have no trouble," said Marzullo, long-time ally of the late mayor Richard J. Daley. "I've got a name second to none in the state of Illinois. What can he do to me? What's good for the city and the 25th Ward, I am for."
When it became obvious early this morning that Washington had won, the mood at Epton's headquarters turned distinctively sour. Loud boos greeted pictures of civil rights leader the Rev. Jesse Jackson on a huge television screen on the hotel wall, and some Epton supporters complained angrily that the media had treated their man unfairly.
"I predict many people in Chicago will vote with their feet," said Jason Whitman, an Epton precinct captain. "They'll move out because they won't be able to stand the tax burden of the Washington-Jackson axis."
Such feelings were more subdued today in the predominantly white 47th ward, which supported Epton by 82 percent, although ward boss Edmund Kelly had hoped to deliver 87 percent. Overall, Epton won more than 70 percent of the white vote, while more than 90 percent of black voters went for Washington.
"We've got the wrong man in," said a 70-year-old man who asked not to be identified. "It shows honesty doesn't count anymore, just color counts."
"It's a sad day," said Carl Williams, a retired postal worker. "Most of the city is already a slum. Now it will all be a slum."
"I think people are very concerned," Alderman Sculster said. "Based on the vote totals, Washington has to reach out. He has to work quickly to dispel any notions of getting even . . . . We'll just roll with the punches."