Crusader Staff Report
The announcement came out of left field. Todd Stroger, the man who was ousted after following in his father’s footsteps to become Cook County Board President, wants a rematch with incumbent Toni Preckwinkle in a heated race where neither may get the big prize.
It’s the latest development in Illinois where two of Cook County’s most powerful leaders face mounting challenges to keep their jobs, from a fresh crop of candidates seeking to capitalize on their opponents’ weakened appeal among voters, especially Chicago’s Black electorate.
On Friday, November 17, Troy LaRaviere, an ousted CPS Black principal and outspoken critic of Mayor Rahm Emanuel, confirmed that he will run against his rival in 2019. Black businessman Willie Wilson is also running. With the Black vote at stake and Jesus “Chuy” Garcia threatening to steal the Hispanic vote in his second quest to oust Emanuel at City Hall, the race for mayor is becoming a heated battle despite being a year away.
With two separate Laquan McDonald trials still playing out in the courts, Black voters are constantly reminded of accusations that Emanuel suppressed the video showing the brutal murder while he campaigned in the Black community to get reelected.
But the immediate concern is Preckwinkle’s political career, which will be decided during the Democratic Primary on March 20. Once the darling of Cook County politics, Preckwinkle’s star dimmed after public outcry from residents and retailers forced commissioners to repeal her controversial penny-per-ounce tax on sugary drinks.
While Preckwinkle makes gains in finding ways to plug the $200 million deficit that the tax aimed to fill, her image as Cook County Board president has been damaged and her appeal among voters weakened, providing critics an opening to unseat her as she continues with the political fallout. With less than four months to go before the Democratic Primary, Preckwinkle is running out of time to regain respect and credibility as a political leader.
Stroger’s announcement has made the situation worse for his rival, who has a slim chance of winning the race himself. Away from politics for seven years, Stroger’s profile has faded and voters have shown a desire for fresh leadership after the soda tax debacle. A rematch between Stroger and Preckwinkle may spell doom for both candidates and threatens to end a streak at the Cook County Board, where Blacks have led the office for 23 consecutive years.
With Preckwinkle and Stroger in the race, their bids may cancel each other out as the two threaten to split the Black vote in a race where Preckwinkle needs it the most. She already faces former Alderman Bob Fioretti who announced his bid for Cook County Board President last Monday, promising to end Preckwinkle’s tax-and-spend policies. In Illinois’ biggest county, a split Black vote in Chicago will certainly not be enough to propel either Preckwinkle or Stroger into the county’s highest office.
A similar situation may have been averted when Cook County Commissioner Richard Boykin in October declined to run against Preckwinkle after consulting with Black leaders. Boykin was one of several commissioners who publicly criticized the tax, saying it is unnecessary and harmful to Cook County businesses.
Ironically, taxes have been the sticking point that have haunted both Stroger and Preckwinkle. In 2010, Preckwinkle soundly defeated her rival and repealed a 10.25 percent sales tax, before reinstating it after she was re-elected in 2014. Now in his bid to unseat Preckwinkle, Stroger accuses Preckwinkle of not being up front about the soda tax.
“I think people feel like she was just dishonest about this tax, and she wouldn’t let it go,” Stroger was quoted in one news report.
Preckwinkle’s campaign office issued a statement after Stroger announced his bid for Cook County Board President.
“Cook County voters know what Toni Preckwinkle has accomplished and we are confident that she will be successful in both the Democratic primary and general election in 2018.”