Democratic Powerhouse Thomas Hynes Dies at 80


Thomas Hynes, Chicago Democrat who held office for more than 40 years, died May 4 after a long illness. He was an influential member of the Democratic National Committee. First elected to the Illinois Senate in 1970, he became its youngest President at 31. From his base in Chicago’s 19th ward, he was long-serving Cook County assessor.

He also decided to run against Harold Washington in the 1987 Chicago mayoral race. While he was a part of the Democratic party, he ran for mayor under the “Chicago First” party to increase his chances of making it through the primary. He made it to the general election, facing off against Harold Washington, Ed Vrdolyak, and Don Haider. Hynes’ platform focused on his “newness” to the mayoral race, since he wasn’t part of the Council Wars that marked Washington’s first term in office. He emphasized that he wasn’t part of the infighting and just wanted to make Chicago a better place.

However, two days before the election, he withdrew from the race. He claimed he wanted to give voters a clear choice and make sure someone would achieve the majority. But some claimed that he dropped the race out of fear of finishing last, being a white candidate responsible for electing Washington, and that he wouldn’t have been able to run the city.

His family has continued its influence on politics. One son, Dan Hynes, is a former Illinois state comptroller and currently deputy governor in Pritzker’s administration. Another son, Matt, formerly served as Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s chief lobbyist.

In this excerpt from Bill Stamets’ documentary, Chicago Politics: A Theatre of Power, Stamets documents the enthusiasm for Hynes by the South Side Irish community and the racial tension that came with his campaign against Washington. You can also see him speaking with the press about his claims that his opponent, Ed Vrdolyak, met with a mob boss and his refusal to offer any more details. 

Watch Stamets’ documentary, Chicago Politics: A Theatre of Power on Media Burn.



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