Blizzard lacks political punch of 1979

February 1, 2011 4:23:55 PM PST
You have to be about 40 years old to remember the blizzard of 1979, which took Chicago politics by storm.

Regardless of how bad Tuesday night's blizzard is, the political storm that accompanied 1979's snowfall will not be repeated for one simple reason: the Chicago mayoral campaign that was in full swing in 1979 featured an incumbent trying to hold onto office.

Unlike this year's blizzard-within-a-campaign that will have no fallout for Mayor Daley, because he isn't running.

It was a city wide emergency that ground transportation to a halt and left some cars buried for the rest of the winter.

When it started snowing on January 12, 1979, one politician would also end up buried by the blizzard.

Chicago Mayor Michael Bilandic at that moment, Bilandic was in a pitched fight for re-election and gave his own snow-response effort a glowing review.

"Let me tell you something, people are here from Buffalo," said Bilandic. "They say the operation, they say that the operation in the City of Chicago is as good as any anywhere in the country."

Unfortunately for Bilandic, during that blizzard, Buffalo might have done a better job.

As Bilandic announced that snow removal was progressing well and that many streets were clear, his opponent, Jane Byrne, relentlessly pointed out that wasn't true.

Six weeks after the storm of 1979, Jane Byrne beat the incumbent in a political event known to this day as "Bilandic's blizzard."

Mayor Daley this afternoon brushed aside a question about whether he's feeling less political pressure during this snowstorm because he is not running for re-election.

The mayor said his administration will handle it the same as they have other storms the past 22 years.