Yesterday at about 11:15 AM at Zak's Restaurant near the Greektown neighborhood of Chicago, Tom Tresser officially announced his candidacy for President of Cook County. Tresser is best known as the face of the group No Games Chicago. By becoming the so called shadow of the 2016 Committee, No Games, and Tresser specifically, has developed a cult following throughout most of Chicago. Yet, Cook County Board President encompasses all of Cook County and not just the city. Furthermore, a cult following only takes you so far. Still, Tresser's entry continues to add intrigue to a race which will feature a dynamic that will be the love of all political junkies.
The Democratic primary will be bloody. It will take no great political prognostication to figure that out. Todd Stroger, the encumbent, is vulnerable and the Democrats know it. That's why there are no fewer than four challengers ready to take him on. Stroger is best known for sticking the County with the highest sales tax in the country. Local news stations have featured stories of cushy jobs going to friends and family. Then, there's the story of Tony Cole. Cole was his basketball playing buddy when Stroger offered him a job in the County. Not three months into his tenure, Cole was promoted. No one seemed to notice that Cole had a long rap sheet. They did notice, however, when Cole, while working for the County, was arrested not once but twice. On one occasion, Stroger's cousin Donna Dunnings, and then CFO of Cook County, used her own personal credit card to bail out Cole. I could go on and on listing Stroger scandals but hopefully the audience gets the idea.
In the Democratic race, there includes longtime U.S. Congressman Danny Davis, Chicago alderman Toni Preckwinkle, MWRD President Terrence O'Brien, and Clerk of the Circuit Court Dorothy Brown. Davis is a six term Congressman from the 7th District on Chicago's South Side and parts of the Southern suburbs. Precwinkle will attempt to go the route of Stroger himself and go from the Chicago City Council to President of the Cook County Board. Of course, Stroger had the benefit of replacing his dying father and making a backroom deal to slip into his place. Meanwhile, Brown is the only one to have prior executive experience with her stint as head of the Circuit Court. All, however, have ties to the Democratic machine both in Chicago and in Cook County. If corruption is the issue of the day, and it should be, it's unclear just how much credibility any will have on it.
Meanwhile, the Republican field was lead by former Democrat Paul Vallas. Vallas is the former CEO of Chicago Public Schools. He challenged Rod Blagojevich for the governorship in 2002. Then, he went on to fix schools in Pennsylvania and most recently in Louisiana. Of course, he did all this as a Democrat. Insiders I've spoken with said that they believed that he left the Cook County area because he worried that the stink of the corruption was about to taint him. Vallas has also developed a reputation as a reformer. The Republicans have had exactly zero Cook County Board presidents in the history of Cook County. In fact, the closest they came was in 2006 when Tony Peraica barely lost to Stroger. Peraica remains a possibility to run in the race though he suffered a tough loss for Cook County State's Attorney to Anita Alvarez in 2008. (UPDATE) As a reader points out, Vallas has dropped out. The Republicans are lead by Roger Keats now, a candidate I am not that familiar with.
That leaves the aforementioned Tresser. Tresser is about to run on the third party Green Party ticket. That leaves him at a decided disadvantage. For instance, when he submits his signatures, you can bet the party bosses of the Democrats will have a team of lawyers scouring the signatures to make sure each and every one is legal. Furthermore, he won't have the benefit of city and county workers to go and knock on doors for him the way that say, Todd Stroger will have. Unfortunately, here in Cook County that's usually enough. Tresser does bring a record of fighting corruption though that's mostly in the borders of Chicago. He lead a near one year campaign against the Olympics often beating the newspapers to significant developments. Prior to that he lead a group of activists in opposing the Chicago Park District giving land to the private Latin School for them to build a soccer field. While the citizens of Chicago are familiar with the disaster of the privatization of the parking meters, many don't realize that the parking meter debacle is only one of a string of city actions aimed at privatization. Most don't get the publicity of the parking meters but almost all are just as disastrous.
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