The other night I met up with a friend of mine at a bar a few blocks south of the Skyway and just west of the state line, in what was once Eddie Vrdolyak territory and more recently was the nerve center for Al Sanchez’s Hispanic Democratic Organization Southeast. (My friend Dan Mihalopoulos recently wrote a fine Tribune piece about politics in the neighborhood, starting with the mood at a another favorite spot, the Crow Bar.) As usual, the talk moved to politics generally, and Mayor Daley specifically. My friend, a former city employee and lifelong resident of the southeast side, agreed that while Daley is the clear favorite to win the February election, he may have to work for it this time.

“Yeah,” she said, “I’m looking forward to seeing some Daley campaign signs for the first time in my life.” 

It’s been a long time since the mayor had to run anything resembling a conventional campaign. In the last two elections, Daley was calm and almost quiet while coasting to victory on the strength of campaign workers provided by the HDO, endorsements help from prominent black clergy, and ever-longer periods of silence from would-be critics who knew they faced political extinction if they spoke out. 

While I haven’t seen any signs up yet, Daley’s 2007 campaign team has sent out its first mailing. “Keep Chicago Moving Forward,” it declares. It refers to the mayor by his youthful nickname, Rich, and its cover is dominated by pictures of green trees, children at play, quiet neighborhoods—and a Chicago Police Department security camera. Inside, there are three shots of Daley surrounded by people of color, including some of his biggest clerical supporters (Johnny Miller of Mount Vernon Baptist Church, Arthur Brazier of the Apostolic Church of God), his newly appointed city clerk, Miguel del Valle, and city treasurer Stephanie Neely.  

Most interesting, though, is the detachable response card: “Volunteer TODAY!” it invites. Respondents can check boxes indicating how they’d like to help. Options include registering voters, making phone calls, walking door-to-door, working on election day, hosting a coffee or party, putting a sign in the front window or yard, or volunteering “Wherever I’m needed.” 

The campaign office’s phone number is also listed. I called and asked spokeswoman Michele Jones to confirm that Daley’s never made a similar open appeal for volunteers . “I don’t know,” she said. “It’s my first time working with the campaign.”