Sunday, July 09, 2006

It's a lock: Todd Stroger is Dem. County Board President Nominee

The Democratic Cook County Central Committee will meet on Tuesday, July 18th at the Allegro Hotel in the Loop and Ald. Todd Stroger [8th Ward, Chicago] will receive the requisite majority of the weighted vote [of the 50 ward committeeman bosses and 30 township committeemen bosses] to become the Democratic nominee for President of the Cook County Board. Todd will replace his father, 12-year incumbent President John Stroger, on the Nov. 7, 2006 ballot.

The Democratic south-sider and former State Rep. Todd Stroger will beat his anticipated two opponents: west-side Cong. Danny Davis (D-Chicago, 7th Cong. Dist.) [Davis, a former independent Chicago alderman, is aka the Voice of God who, perhaps not coincidentally, crowned a few years back Rev. Moon as a quasi-God, or maybe even a full God] and west-side Cook County Commissioner Bobbie Steele [D-Chicago], on the first ballot.

Most likely, William Beavers [7th Ward Alderman and trusted consigliere to the Stroger family] will be slated by his fellow party bosses to replace John Stroger as the Democratic nominee for the 4th Dist. Cook County Commissioner, and Mayor Daley will follow Beavers’ recommendation, as is the custom, to appoint Beavers’ daughter to replace Beavers as 7th Ward Alderman. As they say, it is best to keep things “All in the Family.”

A week before the March 21 Democratic Primary for Cook County Board President, reformer, white Cook County Commissioner Forrest Claypool [D-Chicago] was leading black, incumbent, Mayor Daley supported President John Stroger in internal team Claypool polls. Stroger suffered what was characterized initially as a serious or severe stroke and there was a tremendous outpouring of sympathy in the African American community for the then seventy-six year old President.

Up until that time, Stroger was taking a beating in television ads and earned media by Claypool, who argued that Stroger’s legacy as President was bloat, patronage, inefficiency, incompetence and an inability to meet resident needs, especially low income recipients of county services. Claypool’s media message guru, David Axelrod, and candidate Claypool made the decision that Stroger’s stroke meant that they had to pull the tough ads and soften the attacks and criticism of Stroger for the remainder of the campaign.

The Stroger stroke had the political impact of energizing the Black community and Claypool’s toned down campaign similarly resulted in a loss of energy and momentum for his supporters. So, turnout went up for John Stroger and down for Forrest Claypool, giving Stroger a 53.5% to 46:5 % victory. Sometimes events beyond each candidate’s control overtake the campaign. The 2006 Democratic Primary for County Board President was clearly one such race.

Although there is no definite knowledge on the street as to the status of John Stroger’s health, the word is that it has been quite bad since the stroke, and the long-term prognosis for the now seventy-seven year old Stroger is bad as well. However, the powers that be [Stroger’s wife, son, chief of staff and close family friends] withheld that information and instead promoted the notion that John Stroger might be able to stay on the ballot and pursue his re-election, and the Stroger family put out the word that a decision would be made in July regarding his candidacy.

When Stroger submitted his formal withdrawal papers on Friday, the deadline for filing an independent party candidacy had passed. This appears to have been a part of the Stroger Family strategic plan to pass the baton to son Todd. Also, the signature of John Stroger on his letter of resignation and withdrawal papers make clear that John probably will not be throwing out the first pitch or writing any essays anytime soon, and the word on the street is that this was probably known by the Stroger family members within days of the stroke.

Due to the past deadline for third-party candidate filings, the only opposition that Stroger’s replacement on the ballot will face will be Republican Nominee Tony Peraica [R-Riverside]. Although a Republican has not won the Cook County Board Presidency in almost four decades, many Democrats, e.g., reformer Forrest Claypool and independent Democrats Cong. Davis and Comm. Steele are worried that Ald. Todd Stroger is just what the Republican Party needs to end the drought.

Todd Stroger has demonstrated little if any leadership as a State Rep. or Alderman. He is viewed by his colleagues as "weak." And, the legacy of Todd's dad is not a strong one to run on. Peraica can simply re-cycle the ads of Democrat Forrest Claypool if Todd is going to run on the legacy of his Dad, John Stroger. Peraica is expected to roll over Ald. Todd Stroger in debates. Todd can hope to live off of the sympathy of the Black community for his dad, but the family ties may be insufficient for that to work.

As Tony Peraica is fond of saying to lead off every campaign stop after he looks the voters directly in the eye, “Had enough.”

Many Democrats are afraid that a majority of voters might just respond, “Yes, we have had enough.”

However, at the moment, such powerful ward or township committeemen and holders or controllers of substantial weighted votes in the County Democratic Central Committee as House Speaker and Illinois Democratic Party Chairman Mike Madigan, 17 year Mayor Daley, Ald. Beavers [7th Ward] appear not to be worried, at all. They and their fellow ward bosses have not “had enough” of controlling big time contracts, patronage jobs, etc. And, they don’t think enough Democratic voters or independents are ready to mark a Republican name, no matter what they think of Todd Stroger, or his dad. In short, as the saying goes, “Cook County ain’t ready for reform.” We’ll see in November if the voters agree.

Finally, as to the Todd and Tony contest, Todd should be able to raise a few million dollars for his campaign, and if Tony can not match him, or at least raise two million dollars, the "had enough," message may not be heard or seen, and Todd's money and the Daley- black south-side machine could bury Tony.
The interim Cook County Board President will be elected by the County Board in a special meeting to be set for late July. The interim President will take over on August 1, 2006, as Stroger’s resignation of that position and his 4th Dist. Commissioner seat are not effective until July 31, 2006.

The winner of the interim President position is not yet decided. Commissioner Steele has her hat in the ring for this, as well. Comm. Peraica is supporting fellow Republican and board elder statesman and lame duck Carl Hansen. Democratic President Pro-Tem and John Stroger favorite Mario Moreno may want it and get it. Although Comm. John Daley [brother of the Mayor] has now said he won’t seek the interim Presidency, that could change.

Comm. Claypool has said he may be interested in the interim President position, if no consensus choice emerges. Claypool has pointed out in recent Board discussions that the interim President position is not really that important, in that the interim President will only serve for about four months, with the newly elected President taking over in December.

Yet, Claypool [two term former Chief of Staff to Mayor Richard M. Daley] may be tempted to see what he can do to advance reform in four months. If the Four Horsemen [Democrats Claypool, Quigley and Suffredin and Republican Peraica] can stick together and if they can get the remaining four Republicans and Democrat Earlean Collins to join forces with them-- as they did several times in the last few years to block John Stroger’s proposed tax increases, Claypool might get a shot at being a four month reformer. Given that Suffredin, for one, has been talking up Comm. Steele, I wouldn’t bet on Claypool. Not this time around.
Jeff Berkowitz, Show Host/Producer of "Public Affairs," and Executive Legal Recruiter doing legal search can be reached at