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Stroger submits new letter withdrawing from race

Sunday, July 09, 2006
Daily Southtown
by Phil Kadner

John Stroger was sitting in a chair and talking when he signed a form letter Friday officially withdrawing from the Cook County Board president's race in November, according to attorney Burton Odelson.
Odelson, an election law expert with offices in Evergreen Park, notarized and delivered the document to Cook County Clerk David Orr.
The official "Withdrawal of Candidacy" comes one week after the release of a controversial five-page letter from the county president to county board members and the public announcing his intention to resign as president July 1.
Stroger's signature on that document was scrawled in such an unreadable fashion that some questioned whether he actually knew what he was signing, while others suggested the public had been misled about the seriousness of his stroke.
In addition, an early version of the resignation letter included no signature at all.
Stroger's signature on the withdrawal form signed Friday is clearly legible. Odelson said he grasped the board president's right hand in greeting and was surprised by its strength.
Odelson said the form letter was intended to clear up any legal questions about Stroger's intent to withdraw from the race in November.
Another letter, separate from the five-page resignation document, had been sent to Cook County Democratic committeemen last week notifying them of Stroger's intention to withdraw from the race and asking them to nominate his son Todd.
"I was contacted by Stroger's son Todd and (Chicago Ald.) William Beavers and asked to notarize the form letter our office always uses for withdrawals," Odelson said.
The document, titled "Withdrawal of Candidacy", officially withdraws Stroger not only from the race for Cook County Board president, but also from re-election as 4th District county commissioner. The board president is elected countywide, while commissioners are elected by district in Cook County.
The one-paragraph form states:
"I, John H. Stroger Jr., being first duly sworn, say that I reside in the County of Cook, and State of Illinois, that I am the same person whose name is subscribed hereto and who is the duly nominated Democratic candidate for the offices of President of the Cook County Board of Commissioners, 4th County Board District, Cook County Illinois, and further state that I hereby withdraw as a candidate for said office and respectfully request that my name NOT be printed upon the official ballot as a candidate for either office, and no votes be counted for me at the General Election to be held on November 7, 20006. I further state that this Withdrawal of Candidacy affirms the previous withdrawal dated June 29, 2006 and addressed to Thomas G. Lyons, Chairman of the Cook County Democratic Party."
The letter is signed John H. Stroger Jr., witnessed by his wife, Yonni, and Beavers; and notarized by Odelson.
"I wouldn't have notarized the letter if I didn't believe he clearly understood what he was signing," Odelson said.
"I told him, 'Mr. President, do you understand that by signing this document you are resigning your party's nomination for president and for county commissioner,' and he said, 'Yes.'"
Odelson pointed out that while Stroger has resigned as president, he has still not resigned his seat as county commissioner from the 4th District.
Odelson is one of the few people, outside of family members and Beavers, who have seen Stroger since his stroke.
I asked him if Stroger seemed better or worse than what he had expected based on newspaper reports.
"He was better than I expected and worse than I had hoped," Odelson said.
"It was just before his physical therapy session. He was in his room at the Rehabilitation Institute (of Chicago) and sitting in a chair.
"It was my impression that he's done a lot of rehab on his right side, which seemed pretty strong. But it was also my impression he has a lot of rehabbing left to do."
I didn't want to be indelicate, but I also wanted to get a more detailed assessment of Stroger's condition.
"Was he slumped over in his chair and drooling?" I asked.
"Absolutely not," Odelson said.
All right. That looks even cruder on the written page than it sounded when I asked it.
But what mental image of Stroger did you have based on some of the recent news reports?
And isn't it important to get some picture of how mentally alert he was while signing the withdrawal form letter?
Odelson said Cook County Democratic committeemen are now free to meet and name a replacement for Stroger as president on the November ballot.
A separate group of committeemen, in the 4th District, would have to meet and select Stroger's replacement on the ballot as Cook County commissioner from that district.
The Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago was named the No. 1 rehabilitation hospital in the country based on a survey by U.S. News and World Report.
It specializes in treating brain injuries and stroke victims.

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