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Todd Stroger wins dad's ballot spot

Wednesday, July 19, 2006
Chicago Sun-Times

Nineteen Cook County Democratic committeemen made a symbolic stand Tuesday against what their candidate called "family ties and pedigrees" dictating who gets slated for office.
But even as they made their speeches, the writing was on the wall. Ald. Todd Stroger (8th) ultimately won 77 percent of the weighted vote of the Cook County Central Committee to replace his father, John Stroger, as the Democratic nominee for County Board president on the November ballot. The elder Stroger suffered a stroke in March and was re-hospitalized Friday.
"I seek this office as an end in itself, with a genuine passion for the mission of county government and not as a steppingstone to other office," Todd Stroger, 43, told the packed room of committeemen at the Hotel Allegro.
'Family ties and pedigrees'
U.S. Rep. Danny Davis (D-Ill.) and his backers warned committeemen they were losing touch with voters by installing the younger Stroger in his father's seat as they did when they endorsed Dan Hynes rather than Barack Obama for U.S. senator.
"The drums are rumbling, and the people want to be heard," Davis said. "They want your decisions to reflect their views. I would be less than honest if I did not express some disappointment in the way this process has been handled. It has not helped the Cook County Democratic Party.
"I don't like the idea that family ties and pedigrees will continue to trump other kinds of experience and credentials. I've a strong feeling that your decision may not be where the people are. Therefore, I urge that we find a way to be more in tune with the people."
Davis had his own cheering section of supporters. But once the votes were counted, Davis pledged his full support for Todd Stroger.
"I will campaign with him any place that he wants to go, any time of day -- night, morning, L stations, churches, the alley, West Side, South Side, East Side, North Side, the suburbs," Davis said. "He's going to make a good president for the Cook County Board, and he's going to make his daddy proud of him."
Board to pick interim leader
Todd Stroger talked of his experience as an alderman, state legislator and investment banker and his hope to make county government more "efficient."
His backers said they wanted good government, not just the patronage jobs the county government has traditionally supplied them.
"I'm not even holding a patronage job," Barrington Committeeman Bill Powers said as he announced his support for Todd Stroger.
The focus turns this morning to the Cook County Board room where the 16 remaining commissioners must select one from among their own ranks to be interim president until December.
Board member Bobbie Steele appeared Tuesday night to be stuck at eight votes and unable to get the ninth, which could give an opening for Commissioners Mario Moreno, Forrest Claypool, Earlean Collins or Carl Hansen to get elected in the second or third ballots.
Claypool, who took 47 percent of the Democratic vote from the elder Stroger in the primary, came to Tuesday's meeting to make a seconding speech for Davis. But the committee adopted rules at the beginning of the meeting prohibiting non-committeemen from speaking.
'Restore our faith with the voters'
Steele took herself out of the running for the slating Monday to concentrate on her bid for the interim slot. She said some of her supporters were put off enough by Todd Stroger's appointment that they might vote for Republican Tony Peraica in November.
Other committeemen said the same thing Tuesday as they explained their votes for Davis even though Todd Stroger's election seemed assured.
"We have a rare opportunity to restore our faith with the voters, who are feeling disenfranchised and outraged, think that this is a sham and believe that we as committeemen lack the independence to think for ourselves and vote in their interests," Oak Park Committeeman Don Harmon said, urging a vote for Davis.
After the vote, when Ald. Dorothy Tillman (3rd) asked to make the vote unanimous, Harmon objected, saying he would work hard to get Todd Stroger elected but needed to be honest with his constituents about the vote to get them to support Todd Stroger.

Eloquent, less-eloquent and downright puzzling comments from members of the Cook County Democratic Central Committee:

"Throughout history there has always been those who seek to gain political power through nonstop negative attacks and anti-government rhetoric. But those with anger or intolerance in their hearts rarely inspire and they rarely succeed in building the coalitions necessary to govern in a pluralistic and democrative society." --Ald. Todd Stroger (8th)

"The delivery of the United States mail stinks. . . . And it's because Danny Davis, who should be an expert at this, will not negotiate with the union. The union doesn't do its job. And of all the places in the United States where Afro-Americans have an opportunity with benefits and with good pay to do a job, it's the Postal Service. They have a lock on it. [Committeemen began booing Natarus] And that's fine. I'm for it. I want 'em to have it. They can have it. But I want service. [More booing] And when I go to my congressman and he won't do anything about it. I even had him in my community. I had a big meeting at the Latin School, and I asked him to come and he came. And he didn't deliver. I like him. I think he should stay in the Congress." --Ald. Burton Natarus (42nd)

"Todd Stroger has been there. He's more than well-qualified. It is time for our generation, as the torch is being passed from one son to one father, to stand up and take the reins." --Ald. Howard Brookins Jr. (21st)

"Everyone in this room is a progressive. Both of our candidates are distinguished. Both of them have fine public records. Both of them are qualified to lead. Compare that to the Republicans, who had four years to find a candidate and found Tony Peraica!" --State Rep. Lou Lang (D-Skokie)

"I think Mr. Stroger would make a great County Board president. As my colleague so succinctly remarked, he's a concilitator. He can bring us together. And I urge you not to do as some of our colleagues originally suggested, that we were trying to throw the baby out with the bath water. You want to throw the baby out with the bath water, don't vote for Todd Stroger. You'll throw the baby out with the bath water. That baby is my children, your children, the people in the neighborhood. And I'm proud of that." --30th Ward Committeeman Michael Wojcik

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