By Erick Johnson, Chicago Crusader
The stage for the big battle has been set. Another Black politician, Todd Stroger, has decided not to run against her. With the filing deadline expired and just one Democratic opponent running against her, former alderman Bob Fioretti, Preckwinkle is seeking help from Chicago’s Black electorate to win the Democratic Primary on March 20, 2018. The winner will likely face Republican Andrew C.M. Nelson in the general election in November 2018. Voters haven’t elected a Republican as Cook County Board President for decades, so Fioretti may be Preckwinkle’s toughest hurdle in winning re-election.
On Monday, Dec. 4, Preckwinkle got a big boost from Chicago’s Black clergy leaders from diverse faiths, who threw their support behind Preckwinkle during a press conference at the Lake Shore Café in Hyde Park.
About 30 faith leaders packed the room, where they spoke of Preckwinkle’s achievements in Cook County, where there has been a 25 percent reduction in the jail population. They also pointed to Preckwinkle’s success in juvenile justice reform that led to a decline in population in the Juvenile Temporary Detention Center in 2016.
“She’s in good company because in all of her professional career, she stood for the people,” said Rev. Leon Finney of Metropolitan Apostolic Community Church. “Our health care system in Cook County is better because of Toni Preckwinkle. When you add Toni to anything it gets better.”
“I support Preckwinkle’s desire to be reelected,” said Albert D. Tyson III. “Whenever she sees a need, she seeks to fill that need.”
During a 10-minute speech, Preckwinkle spoke about issues and the progress her office has made in reducing Cook County’s jail population and helping struggling residents obtain affordable health care. She mentioned her administration’s achievement in expanding the government-funded Medicaid to 480,000 residents. Preckwinkle said with President Donald Trump and conservative leaders in Washington, healthcare remains a big concern in Cook County.
“We’ve got some real challenges in terms of health care and the leaders in Washington are moving us backwards.”
During a sit-down interview with the Chicago Crusader, Preckwinkle said the hot political races for governor and attorney general and other campaigns, should boost Black voter turnout, which traditionally is lower during non-presidential elections.
Stroger was the second prominent politician who decided not to run against Preckwinkle. In October, Cook County Commissioner Richard Boykin decided not to run against her after months of contemplation. Stroger’s and Boykin’s decisions have all but guaranteed Preckwinkle will get the Black vote.
But getting the support of all voters in Cook County may be a challenge for Preckwinkle this time around. Last November Cook County Commissioners repealed a controversial soda tax after retailers and angry residents mounted a campaign to voice their disappointment at paying another tax in Cook County. To make up for a $200 million deficit left by the repealed tax, 321 Cook County employees were laid off. Chief Judge of the Cook County Circuit Court Timothy Evans sued the county, hoping to block 156 layoffs in his office, as well as Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart’s office.
There is concern that the fallout from the soda tax and the layoffs have hurt Preckwinkle’s re-election bid. While Preckwinkle may be vulnerable in the Democratic primary, many believe that Fioretti doesn’t match his opponent’s profile and political record enough to impress voters at the polls. Despite the challenges, Rev. Finney and other Black faith leaders are standing behind Preckwinkle as their candidate.
“If you want good government, then you have to work to make sure it happens,” Finney said.