County Commissioner Mike Quigley's ill-concealed intention to run for
Cook County Board president in 2006 could, if successful, precipitate
a rash of joblessness in Chicago's South Side 8th Ward.
gaggle of Democratic presidential candidates regularly chastise
President George Bush and the Republicans for job losses, but there is
no jobs-creation problem in the 8th Ward. For over three decades, the
economic engine in that black-majority ward near Hyde Park has been
John Stroger, the current board president, whose obsession with
patronage is legendary.
fact, according to political sources, the 8th Ward, where Stroger is
the Democratic committeeman, has more Chicago and Cook County job
holders per capita than any other city ward, including the Bridgeport
11th Ward and the Far Southwest Side 19th Ward. And every 8th Ward
jobholder -- be they County Hospital nurses and orderlies, County
Building janitorial and maintenance personnel, or upper-echelon
managers -- works all or part of a precinct and donates to Stroger's
age 74, has been a committeeman since 1968, a commissioner since 1970
and the board's president since 1994. He is a longtime ally of Mayor
Rich Daley, and he is the mayor's most prominent and productive black
supporter. Stroger's 8th Ward habitually cranks out awesome majorities
for Democrats over Republicans in elections and solid majorities for
Daley-backed candidates in Democratic primaries. In 1999, when Daley
faced Bobby Rush, who is black, Daley lost the 8th Ward by just
9,144-7,319; in 2003 Daley crushed Paul Jakes 7,896-3,582.
no secret that the real power on the county board is Commissioner John
Daley, the mayor's brother and Finance Committee chairman. John Daley
really runs county government, which is a vibrant economic engine with
24,000 jobs and a budget which will top $3 billion in 2004.
who has suffered from prostate cancer in recent years, is content to
attend to his patronage matters. But, of late, the county has suffered
from a budget crunch, which creates a problem for the mayor in 2006.
Daley does not want Quigley to be board president, and he can't run
his brother for the job, since that would be one too many Daleys in
major office. And if Stroger resorts to a tax increase in 2004 or 2005
to close the current $100 million county budget shortfall, he may make
himself unelectable in 2006.
has been embroiled in a budget feud with Cook County Sheriff Mike
Sheahan, a fellow Democrat. Stroger wants Sheahan to cut 40 jobs;
Sheahan wants a budget appropriation for 138 new County Jail guards,
and he recently yanked five sheriff's police who had been assigned to
Stroger's security detail and who acted as his drivers. The spat makes
both Stroger and Sheahan look petty and foolish.
addition, Stroger promised no property tax hikes in both his 1998 and
2002 campaigns, and he has kept that promise. But now he's musing
about imposing a hotel tax and a tax on leased cars and hiking the
county's share of the sales tax (to 1 percent overall), which would
increase the sales tax to a total of 9 percent in Chicago. By 2006,
when Stroger must run for re-election, the county's budget will be
well beyond $3 billion, and even more non-property tax hikes will be
needed. That gives any Stroger foe an attacking point.
Stroger's attempt to create a countywide dynasty has faltered. He
eagerly desires that his son, Alderman Todd Stroger (8th), succeed him
as board president. Stroger engineered the election of his son to the
Illinois House in 1992, and when Alderman Lorraine Dixon (8th) died in
October 2001, Daley appointed Todd Stroger to the aldermanic vacancy.
He was elected in 2003 to his first full term with 69 percent of the
while Stroger can nurture his son's rise in the 8th Ward, and can even
hand off his 4th District board seat to his son, making him board
president in 2006 is an utter impossibility. Quigley will seek the
post, as might Sheahan, who is still popular after 13 years as
sheriff. If county Treasurer Maria Pappas loses her bid for U.S.
senator in 2004, she, too, might run for Stroger's job.
age 58, is the former alderman from the Far Southwest Side 19th Ward,
where Daley ally and former assessor Tom Hynes is the committeeman.
While in the City Council from 1979 to 1990, Sheahan was part of the
"Vrdolyak 29," but that has not stymied his countywide
political advancement. Sheahan is weary of what he has called
Stroger's "blame game." Even though crime rates are stable,
the incarceration time of County Jail inmates -- both those awaiting
trial and those sentenced to less than a year -- is lengthening. With
fewer releases, the jail is perpetually overcrowded, and prisoner and
employee costs are increasing.
wants more guards. Stroger wants every county office holder to cut his
or her budget. Sheahan is outraged.
to sources, Sheahan is seriously considering a bid for board president
in 2006, a move that would clear the way for 19th Warder and former
state representative Tom Dart, who lost a race for state treasurer in
2002 and who now is one of Sheahan's top aides, to run for sheriff in
2006. Like the 8th Ward, the powers in the 19th jealously guard their
patronage empire. If Sheahan were board president and Dart were
sheriff, the 19th Ward would be Chicago's new patronage paradise.
Quigley, a commissioner since 1998 from the Lakefront 10th District,
could foil the grandiose plans of the 8th and 19th wards. Quigley
recently released his plan to "reform" county government,
titled "Reinventing Cook County."
his proposals, which he claims would save more than $50 million
annually, were the elimination of township government, the
privatization of sheriff's civil process serving, the absorption of
local sanitary districts into the Metropolitan Water Reclamation
District, the elimination of the county's highway department, the
abolition of the sheriff's police in the county's unincorporated areas
(and the assignment of their duties to adjacent municipalities), and,
most dramatically, the consolidation of the county's clerk's,
assessor's, recorder's and treasurer's offices into one mega-office.
the Stroger-Daley contingent was unimpressed with the Quigley plan.
But, of the board's 17 commissioners, five are Republicans and four
are independent Democrats -- Quigley, Forest Claypool, Larry Suffredin
and Joan Murphy. Together, they comprise a board majority. They could
embrace some or all of Quigley's plan, and they could defeat some or
all of Stroger's tax-hike proposals.
is a former aide to Alderman Bernie Hansen (44th), and he was once
viewed as a loyal cog in the Daley Lakefront machine. But after
winning Pappas' County Board seat in 1998, Quigley has compiled a
controversial record which makes him popular with his Lakefront
constituents, but not necessarily elsewhere. As a fiscal conservative,
Quigley has sought to slash the number of Cook County Forest Preserve
District job holders, particularly the district's police force, and to
upgrade services, and he also worked to block the transfer of forest
preserve land to Rosemont for a casino. Quigley also pushed an ethics
ordinance for county employees, which prompted Stroger to attack him
social issues, Quigley has pushed gender pay parity and a gay partner
registry. He led the fight to prevent the Boy Scouts from getting a
25-year agreement for the use of county property on the grounds that
they violate the county's human rights ordinance, which bans
discrimination against gays and lesbians.
record sells well along the Lakefront, especially in the 44th Ward,
which has a large gay population and where Quigley is the acting
Democratic committeeman, but it won't sell well in the city's white
ethnic areas, on the Northwest or Southwest Side, or in some suburban
areas. When Hansen resigned as alderman in 2002, Daley made it clear
that Quigley would not be considered for the post, and he appointed
Tom Tunney as Chicago's first gay alderman. Hansen, still the
committeeman, now spends most of his time in Arizona, and Quigley is
running the ward organization in his stead. It is unclear whether
Hansen will run in 2004 or bow out and back Quigley.
2006, however, Quigley need not win a countywide primary majority. The
question is: Can he get the 35 percent of the vote that he needs to
win a multi-candidate race? In 1994, when Stroger won his first term
as board president, he got 295,358 votes (47.1 percent) in the
primary, to 180,610 (28.8 percent) for Aurie Pucinski and 150,489
(24.1 percent) for Pappas.
to party insiders, Stroger would step aside in 2006 for John Daley,
provided that the party slates Todd Stroger for assessor -- a job now
held by Jim Houlihan, who is allied with Hynes and the 19th Warders,
and who will not step aside. But Daley isn't likely to run for board
president, and Sheahan is. And if Sheahan runs, so will John Stroger.
outlook: Quigley has a Lakefront base -- roughly the 25 percent that
backed Pappas. Quigley has an issue: "reforming" county
government. And Quigley has two prospective foes -- Stroger and
Sheahan -- who could split the black vote and the pro-Daley white
ethnic vote. It is unlikely that Quigley would prevail, as the mayor
would move his troops behind either Stroger or Sheahan at the last
minute. But a Quigley win is now in the realm of possibility.