Thursday, June 18, 2009

Forrest Claypool confides to colleagues he won't challenge Stroger

Forrest Claypool, one of the leading candidates who was expected to challenge Cook County Board President Todd Stroger in the February Democratic primary has told his party allies on the county board he will not run.

That leaves declared candidate Ald. Toni Preckwinkle, a reformer who appeals to African Americans and women dissatisfied with Stroger's rule, and opens up other possible challenges, changing the horse race completely. Another candidate in the race is Cook County Circuit Clerk Dorothy Brown who has both strong name recognition, ties countywide and the ability to raise funds. She would be a formidable candidate in the Democratic primary.

Many believed Claypool was actually a weak candidate and some insiders argued that polling numbers over the past few months showed his appeal among countywide Democrats weakening. Rather than be a leader in the fight against the Stroger 1 percent sales tax, he has been meekly following along.

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Claypool's problem is reflected in the FACT that he is making
more news getting out of the race for Cook County Board President
than he ever did getting in to the race. He just never had it!
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County Commissioner Larry Suffredin immediately announced his plans to form an exploratory committee to decide if he can beat Stroger, who has been besieged by several controversies and growing unpopularity with the oppressive 1 percent sales tax hike. Suffredin originally opposed the sales tax hike, changed his vote hoping that it would bring some badly needed change to the county's health system, and then supported the repeal when those changes failed to materialize.

Another possibility is that County Sheriff Tom Dart might run for Board president in the Democratic primary.

While Democrats scramble to reposition themselves, Republicans are also taking a closer look at the race. With former Chicago Schools CEO Paul Vallas withdrawing from the contest, the Republicans are looking and possible contenders. One candidate, of course, is 17th District Commissioner Liz Doody Gorman, who has quickly risen to the top of the county list of stars first by leading the fight to repeal the Stroger sales tax and her recent victory in getting the board to reverse itself on last year's $190,000 loan to controversy-plagued Regional Schools Supt. Charles Flowers. She's been a powerful voice for voters on the county board.

But the law has been changed and if Gorman does run in November against the Democratic nominee for president, she would not be able to run for re-election to her county seat. A difficult choice but possibly a great opportunity.

That might also save Pat Maher, whose expected candidacy for the 17th District has been overshadowed by Gorman's fast action leadership on the county board. In a head-to-head race, Gorman could easily beat Maher, the president of the Orland Fire Protection District who has no real name recognition outside of this small corner of the huge 17th district. Maher's only asset so far has been his name which his family has fought hard to protect in recent elections. But outside of Orland, the Maher name means little more than that. Maher's ties to the 19th Ward, which has a huge presence in Orland Park, could both help and hurt him in the suburban county district which runs into the far north suburbs. And his ties to Stroger, through the Democratic organization, could cause him some voter grief.

Gorman would be a great candidate to lead the Republican Party going into the election. Winning the primary would be a synch.

Tough choices would have to be made by the beginning of the Fall when filing begins.

-- Ray Hanania

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