By J. Coyden Palmer, Chicago Crusader
Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle breezed to a relatively easy win Tuesday night in her primary race against challenger Bob Fioretti. She will serve her third term and final term as county leader after the November general election. Preckwinkle defeated Fioretti, a former South Side alderman by 150,000 votes.
Much of Fioretti’s campaign strategy focused on the much maligned soda pop tax increase that Preckwinkle pushed for last year. But the beverage industry and the public pushed back hard against Preckwinkle after the story of why the tax was needed was not believable for most citizens.
The tax was pushed as a health benefit for citizens. But most thought the reason was plain and simple: money. Already furious with the City of Chicago’s $.07 tax on plastic bags, the tax on sports drinks, juice and soft drink beverages pushed people over the edge and county commissioners repealed the tax after only a few months, fearful of the backlash during an election year.
Preckwinkle was endorsed by former President Barack Obama a few days before the election. Fioretti failed to land any major endorsements and has been in a political purgatory since he was 2nd Ward alderman. He has unsuccessfully run for three offices since that time and his political future is uncertain.
During her campaign, Preckwinkle cast herself to voters as an experienced, responsible manager. She touted the reduction in the jail population and reducing county debt as major accomplishments.
“I think voters have spoken and knew that the tax was me trying to be a responsible manager, not gouge citizens,” Preckwinkle said after her victory.
In other Cook County races, Commissioner Richard Boykin was upset by challenger Brandon Johnson in the 1st District. Boykin had been the most vocal critic of Preckwinkle. Johnson was endorsed by Preckwinkle as political payback.
“He’s been her hand-picked puppet since the beginning of the race,” Boykin told the Chicago Sun-Times. “The endorsement confirms what I already knew: This is all about her wanting to control the 1st District and wanting someone who will vote with her.”
However Johnson spokesperson Stephanie Gadlin said 1st District constituents have suffered under Boykin’s four years of leadership. She claimed Boykin is a fraud whose principles are more Republican than Democrat.
Cook County voters also backed the use of recreational marijuana in a non-binding referendum Tuesday night. The referendum asked: “should Illinois legalize “the cultivation, manufacture, distribution, testing, and sale of marijuana and marijuana products for recreational use by adults 21 and older.” Nearly 70% voted yes.
The vote is in sync with a national trend to decriminalize marijuana usage in the nation. Many who supported the referendum said it could also bring in revenue for state and local governments. Preckwinkle endorsed the referendum.