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DECISION 2000 / AMERICA WAITS

Bill Daley: Long a Player of Campaign Hardball

November 10, 2000|JEFF LEEDS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Bill Daley, the chairman of Al Gore's presidential campaign and its chief gauntlet-thrower in the escalating war of words Thursday over the election results, is a family man. And the family business is politics.

The son of legendary Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley, the bald-headed, buttoned-down 52-year-old attorney was learning to play campaign hardball from the time he was 7.

He was a schoolboy when his father's political machine delivered crucial muscle to John F. Kennedy, drumming up enough votes in the waning days of the 1960 campaign to swing Illinois into Kennedy's favor under what Republicans charged were suspect circumstances.

The son, called "the political brains of the Daley family," has always favored the role of the behind-the-scenes rainmaker over that of the public officeholder.

And on Thursday, as pundits pondered whether Gore would concede the election if the Florida recount favored Texas Gov. George W. Bush, it was Daley who stepped to the microphone to answer, decrying the "disenfranchisement of thousands of Floridians" whose ballots were disqualified because they punched two holes instead of one.

"Technicalities should not determine the president of the United States, the will of the people should," said Daley from Tallahassee, where he was representing Gore in overseeing the ballot tally along with former Secretary of State Warren Christopher.

Daley hasn't always handled the limelight well. The day he was named Secretary of Commerce in 1996 by President Clinton, he collapsed under the hot lights and toppled from the stage in the Old Executive Office Building in Washington.

Among his achievements in the Cabinet was a leadership role in pushing legislation that granted China permanent normal trade status with the United States.

But since taking the reins of the then-flagging Gore campaign in June, he has frequently made the case for the vice president on Sunday morning TV talk shows.

Even before joining Clinton's campaign in 1992, Daley had built a lengthy political resume. He worked at some level in every presidential campaign since Walter F. Mondale's race in 1984. In 1993, he became a lobbyist at the powerhouse Chicago law firm Mayer, Brown & Platt. In 1996, he co-chaired the host committee for the Democratic National Convention in Chicago before being named to the Commerce Department job.

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