Fall of the 7th Ward shocks political dynasty's boss 'hog'
February 28, 2007
BY MARK BROWN Sun-Times ColumnistI watched Tuesday afternoon into evening as one Chicago political dynasty fell to the wayside and another stepped up to take its place. And the funny thing is, I didn't even realize what was happening until it was all over.
The Beavers dynasty fell flat. The Jackson dynasty is just gaining steam.
But that wasn't apparent as I tagged along with Darcel Beavers on Tuesday afternoon as she made her final campaign rounds through the 7th Ward where her father, William, had ruled since 1983. I watched as voters recognized her and hugged her and as her father's precinct captains reassured her that they had everything under control and that she would easily defeat Sandi Jackson, the wife of U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr.
But they didn't. And she didn't.
"I think we're going to win it straight out but without a runoff," William Beavers, now a Cook County commissioner, had told me at 2 p.m. when I showed up at the 7th Ward office on 79th Street.
"I'm still feeling good," he said when I checked back at 6 p.m. after following his daughter around the ward for a few hours.
By 8 p.m., though, an hour after the polls closed, Beavers was saying, "It's starting to look like there could be a runoff."
Fifteen minutes later, he said, "It's getting tough."
By then, it was already over, and he knew it. But he couldn't bring himself to say so. Not as the clock ticked away and the vote totals mounted with Sandi Jackson carrying many precincts by a 2-to-1 margin. Beavers, known in his profession as somebody who can count votes, wouldn't concede the plain message in front of him. He kept talking runoff as his campaign workers charted the totals by hand the old-fashioned way and argued how to do percentages, by now basing their hopes on their own mathematical errors.
Stroger saga opened windowIn another room, his stunned precinct captains already knew the truth as they picked over their plates of soul food.
"This was the hardest fight I've been in," said one. "The Jackson name. The name worked," said another.
"He's a do-nothing congressman," said a third.
"His daddy was a great man. He ran for president, remember," came the answer.
"I knew it was rough out there," said the first.
Back on the other side of the 7th Ward office, Darcel Beavers was still smiling and telling the television cameras that she was going to wait until all the votes were counted.
She's a nice lady. I could see that as I made the rounds with her, watching her making friends with even the Jackson precinct workers. She worked behind the scenes in her father's office for 22 years, making sure the garbage was picked up and street lights repaired and potholes fixed.
William Beavers, an ex-cop, took over as alderman of the 7th Ward in 1983, riding to victory with the Harold Washington tidal wave.
Darcel Beavers said she hadn't considered herself the alderman-in-waiting during those years in her father's office.
"You know, I never even thought about it. I was just there to make sure everything was taken care of for my father," she said. But when the opportunity presented itself, she decided, "Why not me?"
And maybe her father could have handed her the baton if he hadn't gotten himself involved in the whole messy John Stroger-Todd Stroger saga, which helped embolden Sandi Jackson to run.
But he did, and she did, and the Jackson dynasty worked its own magic with an attractive, energetic candidate and lots of money poured into mailings and billboards and automated phone banks. Also making a difference was the help of the Service Employees International Union, which had once thought of backing the congressman for mayor.
Only question is -- how high?And now you have to wonder how far the Jackson family can take its dynasty. It seems unlikely it will want to stop with a congressman and an alderman and a man who ran for president.
William Beavers remains on the County Board for now, having just been elected to a four-year term, so his dynasty isn't dead yet. A few weeks back, Beavers was quoted as saying: "I'm the hog with the big nuts." Ever since then, I've been wanting to get him to translate, but when I cornered him Tuesday night, he declined.
"If I said it, whoever I said it to, they know what it meant," Beavers said with a twinkle in his eye before the bad news erased it.
That's just as well. Because now he'd have trouble backing it up.