Michael Bilandic

Forty-First Mayor of the City of Chicago (1976-79)

When Mayor Richard J. Daley died in office in 1976, he left no heir apparent for his seat. To replace him, the Democrats would chose Michael Bilandic.

Bilandic, a Croatian, was chosen by Daley in 1969 to fill the alderman vacancy in the 11th ward, and would go on to become finance committee chairman in 1975.1 Other than this, he had little practical political experience. Becoming interim mayor, Bilandic soon found himself in a mayoral primary campaign. He would capture just over half of the vote, defeating Republican Dennis Block by 130,000 votes.2

He was never able to get over the caretaker role he found himself thrust into, and would lose the 1979 Democratic nomination to Jane Byrne. That year has seen Chicago hit by a record snowfall, (82.3 inches by primary election day),3 which literally shut down the City. While Bilandic has been labeled a convenient scapegoat, and so ousted by the voters, he certainly did not help himself.4 Among his failures that year was giving a snow removal consulting contract to a machine man who did nothing, and an order that rapid transit trains should speed through snow covered stations in black neighborhoods, but continue to stop in the Loop for commuters. The press was all over him, leading Bilandic to compare the attacks on his administration to everything from the crucifixion of Jesus to black slavery in the United States.5

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