Fanning the Flames: The Freedom Project Blog


A Cook in Congress

By Shawn Healy
The field for Cook County Board President is growing by the day. Yesterday, seven term Congressman Danny Davis (D-Chicago) said that in "all liklihood" he would enter the Democratic primary set for next February. 4th Ward Chicago Alderwoman Toni Preckwinkle has already declared, and Cook County Circuit Clerk Dorothy Brown is mulling a bid. Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart, County Commissioner Larry Suffredin, and County Assessor James Houlihan are also contemplating a run.

In the background is current President Todd Stroger, who entered office through the back door when he was slated to replace his father who suffered a stroke days before the primary, yet concealed his condition and prevailed despite a strong challenge from challenger Forest Claypool. He would go on to beat Republican challenger and current Commissioner Tony Peraica decisively in the November 2006 general election.

Stroger has since presided over a sales tax increase that elevated Cook County's share to the largest in the nation and beat back successive attempts to repeal it, all along feeding a bloated budget. Nepotism remains the rule of the day as the Stroger kin fills more than 20 county offices, drawing combined salaries in excess of $2 million annually. Stroger intends to seek reelection, but it's difficult to see him weather an ultracompetitive primary with such shaky credentials.

Just a month ago, the field appeared set with Claypool expected to take on Stroger, while former Chicago Public Schools CEO Paul Vallas strategized a return to his former haunts, this time as a Republican candidate for Cook County Board President. Within weeks of one another, Vallas said he would remain in New Orleans to continue his work rebuilding the post-Katrina public school system, and Claypool announced that he would leave elected office altogether.

The door left ajar, the field expanded rapidly.

Preckwinkle, an independent alderwoman representing Chicago's South Side since 1991, has repeatedly taken on Mayor Daley over issues ranging from affordable housing, diversity, corruption, and the city's 2016 Olympic bid.

Brown has served as County Clerk since 2000, winning reelection in 2008 despite charges that she fundraised through her staff and used them for campaign functions. She worked previously as Auditor for the Chicago Transit Authority from 1991 to 2000.

Davis was a West Side alderman for eleven years, then a member of the Cook County Board of Commissioners for six before running successfully for the Seventh Congressional District seat in 1996. He has solid roots in city politics, serving on former Mayor Harold Washington's campaign committee and transition team in 1983, and running against Mayor Daley in the 1991 primary.

Chicago is of course not immune from racial politics, and with three formidable African-American contenders set to take on the current black incumbent, the door may be open for a caucasian candidate who could capture the outstanding white ethnic and lakeshore liberal vote. Should Suffredin, Dart, and Houlihan all decide to take the plunge, then all bets are off. Moreover, the cache of a sitting congressman with deep roots in city and county politics along with a solid base on the West Side cannot be underestimated.

Before long, we'll have a better idea of the scope of the field. Petitions will be circulated starting next month. Add the statewide and national races to the mix, and 2010 promises to be a topsy turvy year for local politicos.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Shawn,
Instead of telling lies about Stroger and his family on the payroll, why dont you tell us the names of the people in the quote from you"Nepotism remains the rule of the day as the Stroger kin fills more than 20 county offices, drawing combined salaries in excess of $2 million annual" Who are they?
Please stop the continued biased assault on Stroger without FACTS.
Just like everyone else you cant because they dont exist.

12:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Under Strogers watch the county has decreased its payroll, created an independent hospital board and Inpector general, as well as having a balanced budget for 3 years. No layoffs or furlough families disrupted by having the breadwinners laid off, Can the city or state claim this??? No they cant. But for some reason Stroger is bad. Is the Cole issue bigger than state and city corruption?? Oh yeah there has not been one person charged or convicted of anything in his administration, but numerous on the city and state levels
IF Stroger was white, he would be hailed as a great reformer.

12:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Are you aware of this?
The Cook County Sales Tax: Basic Facts

From 1992 to June 2008, Cook County received ¾ of 1 cent from the sales tax – three-fourths of a penny per every dollar. The Cook County sales tax has never applied to items that include groceries, medicines and related medical supplies. This rate remained unchanged for more than 15 years – since the County portion of the sales tax was passed in 1992 under the administration of former County Board President Richard Phelan.

The baseline sales tax across the state is 6.25%, which is collected by the Illinois Department of Revenue. Municipal rates vary. Effective July 1, 2008, the Cook County portion of the sales tax increased by one cent for a total of
1.75 %.

Sales Tax Breakdown:

* State of Illinois:


* City of Chicago:

1.25% (effective through March 2008)

* Cook County:

.75% (effective through June 30,2008, with 1.75% effective beginning July 1,2008)


.75% (.25% increase effective April 1, 2008)

How will an increased sales tax affect Cook County residents?

The sales tax WILL AFFECT goods like:

Fast food, restaurant meals, alcohol purchased in a tavern, clothes shopping and furniture.

The sales tax WILL NOT AFFECT “real property” like:
Land, property, home, automobiles, boats, recreational vehicles. (Remember, though, that some of these items may be subject to various municipal sales tax rates.)

The sales tax WILL NOT AFFECT goods like:
A dozen eggs, a gallon of milk, raw chicken, a bag of potatoes, oxygen tanks, syringes, prescription drugs, or over-the-counter drugs.

It’s important to remember that the sales tax increase does NOT apply to all goods, particularly groceries, medicines and medical supplies. On average, households pay less than $158 in Cook County sales tax each year.
The proposed increase will affect households, businesses and visitors in proportion to their spending habits and lifestyles.

Where is the outrage at the State, City, or RTA on thier part of te sales tax?

12:43 PM  

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Managing Director

McCormick Freedom Project

Shawn is responsible for overseeing and managing the operations associated with the McCormick Freedom Project. Additionally, he serves as the in house content expert and voice of museum through public speaking and original scholarship. Before joining the Freedom Project, he taught American Government, Economics, American History, and Chicago History at Community High School in West Chicago, IL and Sheboygan North High School in Wisconsin.

Shawn is a doctoral candidate within the Political Science Department at the University of Illinois at Chicago where he received his MA in Political Science. He is a 2001 James Madison Fellow from the State of Wisconsin and holds a bachelor's degree in Political Science, History, and Secondary Education from the University of Wisconsin at Madison.

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About Fanning the Flames and the McCormick Freedom Project

Fanning the Flames is a blog of the McCormick Freedom Project, which was started in 2006 by museum managing director Shawn Healy. The blog highlights the news of the day, in hopes of engaging readers in dialogue about freedom issues. Any views or opinions expressed on this blog represent those of the writers alone and do not represent an official opinion of the McCormick Freedom Project.

Founded in 2005, the McCormick Freedom Project is part of the McCormick Foundation. The Freedom Project’s mission is to enable informed and engaged participation in our democracy by demonstrating the relevance of the First Amendment and the role it plays in the ongoing struggle to define and defend freedom. The museum offers programs and resources for teachers, students, and the general public.

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The Freedom Project recently launched a new reporting initiative with professional journalists Tim McNulty and Jamie Loo. The goal is to expand and promote the benefits of lifelong civic engagement among citizens of all ages, through original reporting, commentary and news aggregation on First Amendment and freedom issues. Please visit the McCormick Freedom Project's news Web site, The Post-Exchange at

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Vice President of Civic Programs
McCormick Foundation

Tim McNulty
Senior Journalist
McCormick Freedom Project

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