Charles Hayes, a labor leader handpicked by Mayor Harold Washington to succeed him as 1st Congressional District representative from Chicago's South Side, scored an impressive victory tonight in the Democratic primary election.
It was also a political victory for the beleaguered mayor in his political base.
Hayes, an official of the United Food and Commercial Workers union, won almost half the vote in a field of 14 candidates.
With 94 percent of the precincts reporting, Hayes had 45 percent of the vote. His nearest rival, community activist and broadcaster Lu Palmer, had 32 percent, according to unofficial returns compiled by the Cook County Board of Elections. The other candidates, including Washington's former campaign chairman, Al Raby, whom the mayor spurned in favor of Hayes, were running far behind.
The heavy turnout for Hayes, who had never sought public office, made it clear that Washington's political influence remains high in his home area. Hayes ran well throughout the district and won without the endorsement of the city's two major daily newspapers. The Chicago Tribune endorsed Raby and the Sun-Times endorsed Palmer.
Palmer went into the election with high name recognition based on his years here as a broadcaster on black radio stations and in community activism. He is widely regarded as the mastermind of last year's voter registration drive, a key to Washington's upset victory in the February mayoral primary and April general election.
But the mayor's endorsement of Hayes, a vice president of the union's international board and a veteran behind-the-scenes Democratic Party supporter, overcame Palmer's higher recognition.
Hayes had a campaign fund of about $100,000, far more than any of his rivals. He also was able to draw on the support of old-line labor organizers in the district, who turned out a heavy vote for Hayes despite the fact that barely more than a third of the district's 300,000 Democratic voters cast ballots.
In the Republican primary, Diane Preacely and Betty Meyer were running neck and neck for their party's nomination. But the 1st district, the nation's oldest northern black congressional constituency, is overwhelmingly Democratic and Hayes is expected easily to win next month's special election to finish the unexpired portion of Washington's second term.
The major issues were jobs and more federal aid for a district heavily hit by the recession and the general decline in the number of manufacturing jobs throughout the region. The 1st Congressional District, of all the districts in Illinois, has the largest number of families below the official federal poverty line, 31,700.