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1955 Chicago mayoral election

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

1955 Chicago mayoral election

← 1951 April 5, 1955 1959 →
Turnout64.2%[1] Increase 7.4 pp
Richard J. Daley (JFKWHP-AR7347-A).jpg
Robert Merriam (a).jpg
Nominee Richard J. Daley Robert E. Merriam
Party Democratic Republican
Popular vote 708,660 581,461
Percentage 54.93% 45.07%

Mayor before election

Martin H. Kennelly

Elected Mayor

Richard J. Daley

In the Chicago mayoral election of 1955 Richard J. Daley was elected to his first term as mayor by a ten point margin.

This was the narrowest margin of victory of any of Daley's mayoral races.


Democrats had won all citywide elections since 1931.[2] During the countywide elections of November 1954, Republicans were handed a heavy defeat.[2] Since the municipal elections would exclude the Republican party's suburban bastions of support (many of which partook in the Cook County elections) it was expected that Republicans would do even worse in the municipal elections.[2] Among the Democrats which had won election in 1954 was Richard J. Daley, who was elected Cook County Clerk with a 390,000 plurality.[2]


Democratic primary

Daley defeated incumbent mayor Martin H. Kennelly and State Representative Benjamin S. Adamowski in the Democratic primary.

Daley, the new Cook County Democratic Party chairman, refused Kennelly the party's endorsement, and instead ran against Kennelly in the primary, taking the party's endorsement for himself.[3] One reason for this was that Daley and others anticipated that likely Republican nominee Robert Merriam would be a strong candidate, and believed that Kennelly might be too weak to defeat him.[4] Additionally, Kennelly had lost support of segments of the city's African American electorate due to his failure to address crime and reform the city's police department.[5] The Democratic establishment also feared that Kennelly would disassemble the city's patronage system.[5] Kennelly was also blamed by many Democrats for failing to quell disputes within the party which had led to an underperformance of the party in the previous aldermanic election.[6]


Chicago Democratic mayoral primary (February 22, 1955)[7]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Richard J. Daley 369,692 49.05
Democratic Martin H. Kennelly (incumbent) 266,946 35.42
Democratic Benjamin S. Adamowski 113,173 15.02
Democratic Clarence Balek 3,859 0.51
Turnout 753,670

Republican primary

Robert E. Merriam won the Republican Party nomination. Merriam was a land developer[4] who had been elected twice to the Chicago City Council as an independent Democrat, receiving sizable Republican support both times.[2] In order to capture the party's mayoral nomination, Merriam changed his affiliation to Republican.[2] Merriam was a liberal.[8] Merriam's own father had been the Republican nominee in Chicago's 1911 mayoral election[4] and had also unsuccessfully sought the Republican nomination in 1919.

General election

Merriam had hoped that the contested Democratic primary would create enough discord in the Democratic party that its electorate might fracture, giving room for a Republican victory.[2]

Merriam received endorsements from the city's newspapers.[5] Three of the city's four daily newspapers cast very negative coverage on the Democrats during the campaign.[2] The Republicans also laid strong criticism of the Democratic Party.[2] This caused the Democratic Party to alter its plans, which were to run a minimal public campaign, and run a more visible unified Democratic campaign for municipal offices.[2]


Daley's victory can be, in large part, credited to strong support from the city's African American voters.[2] Approximately 20% of the city's voters were African American.[2] Merriam's failure can, likewise, be largely credited to his failure to capture enough of the African American electorate.[2]

Mayor of Chicago 1955 election[9] (General Election)
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Richard J. Daley 708,660 54.93
Republican Robert E. Merriam 581,461 45.07
Turnout 1,290,121


  1. ^ Denvir, Daniel (May 22, 2015). "Voter Turnout in U.S. Mayoral Elections Is  Pathetic, But It Wasn't Always This Way". City Lab (The Atlantic). Retrieved 11 December 2018.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m De Grazia, Alfred. "THE CHICAGO MAYORAL ELECTION OF 1955: ROBERT E. MERRIAMS CHALLENGE TO THE LEADERSHIP OF RICHARD J.DALEY". Retrieved 3 February 2019.
  3. ^ World War II Chicago By Paul Michael Green, Melvin G. Holli
  4. ^ a b c
  5. ^ a b c To Serve and Collect
  6. ^ The Chicago Political Machine and Black-Ethnic Conflict and Accommodation Quintard Taylor Polish American Studies Vol. 29, No. 1/2 (Spring - Autumn, 1972), pp. 48-49
  7. ^ "RaceID=8124". Our Campaigns. Retrieved December 4, 2018.
  8. ^
  9. ^ "RaceID=8125". Our Campaigns. Retrieved December 4, 2018.
This page was last edited on 9 October 2019, at 19:19
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