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Todd Stroger to replace dad on ballot

Wednesday, July 19, 2006
Daily Southtown
by Jonathan Lipman

Acknowledging the decades of loyalty that John Stroger showed the Democratic Party, party leaders overwhelmingly chose his son, Chicago Ald. Todd Stroger, to replace him on the ballot as the Democratic candidate for Cook County Board president this fall.
In a packed and sweltering third-floor room of the Hotel Allegro, where Democratic politicians have met for decades to choose candidates, committeemen gave Stroger 77 percent of the weighted vote. U.S. Rep. Danny Davis got 23 percent.
Committeemen said Ald. Stroger (8th) was a qualified candidate known for his quiet style. But many made it clear their vote was a payback to the elder Stroger, who dropped out of the race last month.
"It is in part because of who (Todd Stroger) is — he is the son of John Stroger … who has in my estimation been one of the most loyal, hard-working and staunchest Democrats … sometimes to his own detriment," said Thornton Township Committeeman Frank Zuccarrelli, who had the largest weighted vote in the committee.
"Who is more fitting to continue the Stroger legacy?"
Ald. Freddrenna Lyle led off the speeches for Stroger with a passionate argument in favor of choosing the son of one of the party's oldest leaders. She read off a long list of U.S. senators and congressmen who followed their fathers into office.
"This is not a Chicago thing!" she shouted.
John Stroger is in the hospital Tuesday for at least the third time since suffering a serious stroke one week before he won the primary in March. He has not been seen in public since.
The remaining 16 county commissioners will vote today to choose one of their own to serve as board president until December.
Ald. William Beavers (7th), an old ally of John Stroger's and an old hand at back-room politics, has said for weeks he had lined up enough votes to get Todd Stroger on the ballot.
But Beavers said nothing during the meeting Tuesday, only casting his vote and votes he controlled via proxy letters. He told reporters afterward to "talk to the president," meaning Todd Stroger.
Todd Stroger had little definite to say Tuesday — his political aides cut off his post-victory news conference after only a few questions. Stroger said the county needs more money, but he also said cuts are needed and he opposes a tax increase.
"Revenues do not support services at this point. We want to make sure services are still intact, public health and public safety," Stroger said. "But we also will have to tighten our belts and will use every tool we have to do that."
Later, Stroger said "a tax increase is not what we're looking at," though he declined to make a no-tax pledge to voters.
Committeemen chose Beavers to fill Stroger's seat as the county commissioner for the 4th District. If elected, Todd Stroger would be the first non-voting county president in decades, if ever, according to the county clerk's office.
Committeemen supporting Stroger said he was calm, quiet and good at building consensus, all needed traits on the fractious county board.
"Todd Stroger knows about being humble and putting together a coalition to win," said Ald. Howard Brookins (21st).
Stroger said he had experience as an alderman and state legislator in all the areas critical to county government, as well as "a longtime interest in county government that goes with being a Stroger."
Davis, saying he represented the reform wing of the party and touting his years of experience in the city council, the county board and the U.S. Congress, cautioned committeemen that choosing Stroger would backfire.
"I tell you the drums are rumbling and people want to be heard," Davis said. "The way this process has been handled … has not helped the Cook County Democratic Party."
But Davis promised to campaign on Stroger's behalf "any time, day or night."
West Side Cook County Commissioner Bobbie Steele had lobbied for the nomination but dropped out Monday. That allowed West Side and west suburban politicians to throw all their support to Davis, but just 19 of 80 committeemen supported him. His other support came from some of the pols who had supported Stroger's primary opponent, Cook County Commissioner Forrest Claypool.
Committeemen's votes were weighted based on the Democratic voter turnout in their township or ward during the primary. South Side and south suburban voters came out in bigger numbers than elsewhere, giving Beavers' bloc more control Tuesday.
Stroger's Republican opponent in the fall, Cook County Commissioner Tony Peraica, said he welcomed the end of the "circus" that has accompanied Todd Stroger's selection, and he thinks voters won't accept the way Stroger was nominated.
"Lately, I am constantly … approached by Democrats who tell me 'I'm a life-long Democrat and thank God you're on the ballot so I have a choice,' " Peraica said. "I think that message is going to spread once voters realize what took place here today."

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