QUESTION: Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ) is now receiving negative news media coverage because he is at Disney World while his state is suffering from a snow storm. His Lt. Governor is also out of state and Democrats are in charge of the emergency. Has a snow storm ever resulted in a major political upset?
ANSWER: Yes, it happened in Chicago in 1979 when a record seven feet of snow fell, and the city came to a halt. Mayor Michael Bilandic (D) was on a Caribbean vacation at the time. Before the storm no one thought Jane Byrne would win the primary. She had been fired by Bilandic two years earlier from her job as the consumer affairs commissioner, and had no major issue on which to challenge him before the blizzard.
Bilandic was interviewed on TV when he arrived at the airport. He said there was no problem and side streets were being plowed. Everyone knew it was a catastrophe and the split screen showed the streets were not being plowed. The side streets that were clear were mostly shoveled out by the people that lived there.
The Mayor needed to say it was a huge problem but he was addressing it. Since the roads weren’t cleared, residents had to rely on trains. Some snowed in city train stations were bypassed. There were many reports public transit was picking up white people from the suburbs and running trains non-stop downtown, leaving African-Americans standing and waiting at the platforms.
Public transportation was sporadic for everyone and people were stranded. It took many of them hours to get home and they numerous people had to walk several miles because the lots weren’t plowed. They couldn’t even tell which car was theirs. yours. African-Americans overwhelmingly voted for Jane Byrne in the February primary. It was the most stunning upset in Chicago history. The powerful Democratic machine was defeated by a snowstorm.
Byrne was later defeated for re-election and Bilandic would serve as Chief Justice of the Illinois Supreme Court.