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John Stroger issues 'strong endorsement' for son to become Cook board president

Thursday, July 06, 2006
Chicago Defender
by Steven Ross Johnson

Four months after a primary election that normally would have settled the matter, the jockeying for the Cook County Board president's chair goes on.
County Board Commissioner Bobbie Steele (D-2nd), said Wednesday she still has an interest in the job of board president for the remainder of John H. Stroger's term. It appeared that the consensus candidate to serve as interim president was going to be Commissioner John Daley (D-11th), but on Wednesday, he announced that he was not going to seek the position.
Meanwhile, county Democrats are starting the process to replace the ailing Stroger on the November ballot. Stroger, recovering from a stroke, sent a letter to party officials last week asking that his son, Todd, the 8th Ward alderman, replace him as the Democratic candidate.
Steele said she was "still interested in the job," but was reluctant to say whether she would campaign to be the Democratic nominee for the upcoming general election.
"We're taking it one day at a time," Steele said.
In his resignation letter, which was released Wednesday, the ailing Stroger says a "younger, healthier candidate" should run for his spot in November and he is recommending his son.
Stroger abandoned his re-election bid in the June 29 letter to Cook County Democratic Party chairman Tom Lyons and acknowledged the questions surrounding tapping his son to be his successor.
"I make this strong endorsement knowing that some will embrace his candidacy and others will be skeptical because he is my son," Stroger's letter said.
Stroger said his son is ready for the job because he understands the political and governmental process, having served as a state representative and now alderman.
Lyons said in a written statement that it was "with profound sadness" that the county party received the communication from John Stroger and they wished him a speedy recovery.
The elder Stroger also is retiring July 31 as president of the county board and giving up his seat as a county commissioner, but it remains unclear who will replace him in the interim.
On Wednesday, Todd Stroger delivered a separate letter signed by his father detailing his plans to retire. It's the same letter John Stroger's office released Friday but this one bears his scribbled signature. Todd Stroger said questions were raised about the initial letter addressed to county commissioners, employees and citizens because it was unsigned.

Since Stroger's resignation, speculation has raged over who would fill his position and oversee what the county Web site calls the nation's 19th largest government, with an annual budget of over $3 billion, until the term ends Dec. 4. Under state law, the county board will elect an existing commissioner to fill the vacancy beginning Aug. 1, according to Commissioner Larry Suffredin (D-Evanston).
"I talked to the [ Cook County ] State Attorney's Office this afternoon, and they indicated that the signed resignation letter would be sufficient to move forward with the process," Suffredin said. He expects the vote to take place during a special meeting sometime in late July.
According to Cady Gibbons, Cook County Democratic Party executive director, the selection of a nominee to replace Stroger for the general election lies in the hands of the 50 ward and 30 township committeemen who will meet and go over the qualifications of all candidates vying for their support.
After reviewing the prospective candidates, the committeemen will vote in a weighted system based on the total number of Democratic votes cast in their respective wards or townships in the March primary. For example, 19th Ward Committeeman Matthew J. O'Shea's vote will carry more weight than most other ward committeemen because his ward had the highest number of Democratic votes in the city at 16,601.
Likewise in the townships, State Rep. Karen Yarbrough, the Proviso Township committeewoman, and Thornton Township Committeeman Frank M. Zuccarelli will be two of the most sought-after voters due to their high Democratic numbers. Stickney Township Committeeman Louis S. Viverito said he was contacted by several possible candidates, including U.S. Rep. Danny Davis (D-7th), and Ald. Stroger in the past week. He expects others to put their names in the race as the day of the vote draws closer.
"You have to have someone who can work with different people," said Viverito. "It takes a strong individual to step in and run this government."
Gibbons said no selection date has been set. Ward and township committeemen are expected to be notified of the process in the next couple of weeks.

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