CHICAGO (CBS) — Two weeks after declaring he’d challenge the woman who defeated him in 2010, former Cook County Board President Todd Stroger has changed his mind, and has announced he won’t run against Toni Preckwinkle next year after all.
Stroger spokesman Sean Howard said Stroger instead will run for Metropolitan Water Reclamation District commissioner, as he originally planned.
“After much prayer and consultation, Former Cook Board President Todd H. Stroger has decided against filing for office of Cook County Board President,” Howard said in an email. “However today Mr. Stroger will move forward in his initial endeavor and file his nominating petitions for Commissioner of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago. He had already gathered well over the required amount of signatures for this office prior to his November 20th announcement for County Board President.”
Howard said gathering the necessary signatures to put his name on the ballot proved to be too difficult, given how late Stroger decided to run for county board president.
“Reaching the internal goal of 25,000 signatures became very challenging within a 14 day timeframe,” Howard said.
According to the Cook County Clerk’s office, a Democratic candidate needs 8,236 signatures on nominating petitions to run for county board president, but many candidates attempt to gather far more than required to avoid any challenges to their papers.
In 2010, Stroger lost his seat as county board president to Preckwinkle, who ran largely on a promise to repeal what remained of a penny-on-the-dollar sales tax hike Stroger pushed through the county board in 2008. Though she followed through in 2011, Preckwinkle later reinstated the full sales tax hike in 2015.
Preckwinkle now faces some political trouble of her own over tax policy, after pushing through an unpopular penny-per-ounce tax on soft drinks and other sweetened beverages. The county board voted to repeal that tax in October, prompting the county to lay off hundreds of employees to balance the budget for 2018 without the revenue from the sweetened beverage tax.
“She’s had her run at it, and we see that she’s made some bad mistakes. This sugar tax was a bad idea,” Stroger said when he announced his plan to run against Preckwinkle on Nov. 20.
At the time, he had been circulating petitions for the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District, but said people who signed his petitions kept asking him if he planned to run for county board president. His plan to run against Preckwinkle lasted only two weeks, but he wasn’t the only challenger in the race.
Former Ald. Bob Fioretti planned to file his nominating petitions run for county board president Monday afternoon.
“We don’t invite people in here, we tax them out,” Fioretti has said. “When Cook County is the only county to impose tax after tax — whether it’s an extra sales tax, a soda tax, or a special leasehold tax — the disastrous results are predictable.”
So far, no Republicans have announced plans to run for Cook County Board President in 2018.
Preckwinkle’s approval ratings have taken a serious hit in recent months due to the sweetened beverage tax.
A poll taken just weeks after the soda tax went into effect in August found Preckwinkle’s approval rating at a mere 21 percent. A more recent poll showed her approval at 33 percent.