fairy tales have happy endings. But the saga of
the "Stroger Succession" -- the
replacement of ailing Cook County Board President
John Stroger by his son Todd Stroger -- may end
like Humpty Dumpty, not like Cinderella. Instead
of Todd Stroger getting the golden slipper, the
Stroger political empire may tumble off the wall.
in particular those in Chicago and Cook County,
expect their politicians to connive, conspire and
collude to advance themselves, their allies and
their family. But the Stroger switcheroo has
engendered a gag reflex, and if voters decide to
upchuck in November and elect Republican Tony
Peraica as board president, there will be a
trickle-down effect in the South Side
black-majority, middle class 7th and 8th wards.
has been said, only partly in jest, that the 8th
Ward has more employees on the Cook County Forest
Preserve District, Juvenile Court and health
services payroll than County Hospital has bedpans.
8th Ward (Avalon Park, Gately Park), just south of
Hyde Park, runs roughly from 73rd Street to 103rd
Street, between Cottage Grove Avenue and Yates
Boulevard. Among the ward's 66,000 residents and
36,654 registered voters, at least 800 have county
jobs, and another 400 have city jobs. On any given
election day, the Democratic organization can
field an army of 3,000 workers.
Stroger, age 77, suffered a stroke prior to the
March primary and has since been incapacitated.
The extent of that incapacity is unknown. The
elder Stroger has been a county commissioner since
1970, the board president since 1994 and the 8th
Ward Democratic committeeman since 1968. The
younger Stroger, age 38, has been the 8th Ward
alderman since 2001, and he was the area's state
representative from 1993 to 2001.
several decades, Stroger's control of the ward was
embarrassingly tenuous. He tried to oust
independent Alderman William Cousins and failed.
He ran for U.S. representative in 1980 and lost
the primary to Harold Washington. In 1983, alone
against the burgeoning black tide for Washington,
Stroger backed his longtime ally, Cook County
State's Attorney Richard Daley, for mayor in the
Democratic primary. Daley got a mere 1,325 votes
(5 percent of the total) in the ward, to
Washington's 23,946 votes (86 percent). Cousins
got a judgeship in 1976, and a Stroger ally has
since been alderman.
heeded the 1983 wake-up call and tempered his
public support for white mayoral candidates. In
the 1989 Democratic mayoral primary in the ward,
Gene Sawyer beat Daley 21,508-724, and in the
election, Tim Evans beat Daley 24,026-1,445. Danny
Davis beat Daley 12,465-1,872 in the 1991 primary,
and Gene Pincham beat Daley 9,514-3,011 in the
election. Joe Gardner beat Daley 10,785-3,571 in
the 1995 primary, and Roland Burris beat Daley
14,491-3,043 in the election. By 1999 Stroger was
out of the closet and publicly for Daley. Bobby
Rush, a longtime Stroger enemy, beat Daley by just
9,144-7,319 in the ward that year, and in 2003
Daley carried the ward 7,896-3,582 against Paul
the March primary for County Board president, when
Stroger was opposed by Forrest Claypool, Stroger
won his ward 12,765-1,620. Stroger's longevity,
coupled with his extensive political patronage,
made him the 8th Ward's undisputed boss. Against
Peraica, Todd Stroger will carry his ward with at
least 90 percent of the vote.
Stroger resigned his nominations for board
president and county commissioner in the 4th
District and as ward committeeman in early July. A
meeting of county Democrats chose his son as the
new nominee for board president and named him ward
committeeman, while the Democratic committeemen
from the 4th District, which encompasses all or
part of the 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 10th and 20th
wards, picked Alderman Bill Beavers (7th) as the
new nominee for county commissioner.
the politically uninitiated, the Stroger-Beavers
tag team is befuddling. Why not pick Todd Stroger
for both spots? If he becomes president, he won't
have a vote in board deliberations, where a
sizable minority of the 17 commissioners are
the answer: Stroger's job, if he is elected, will
be to present a pleasant black "face" of
county government and to mumble platitudes about
cutting spending. In actuality, he will preserve
and protect his ward's jobs and those of the Daley
machine's allies and generally do what County
Board Finance Committee chairman John Daley, the
mayor's brother, tells him to do. That's how it
was under John Stroger.
job is to interact with the other black
commissioners and keep a majority of them
sufficiently contented so that they will not
undermine Stroger or try to strip away the
plethora of county jobs in the 7th and 8th wards.
Beavers, age 71, is in the sunset of his career,
but he can perform a valuable service by
protecting Stroger. In 4 years Beavers can retire
and Stroger can take his seat as commissioner.
the 7th Ward's alderman since 1983, the Democratic
committeeman since 1984 and a 21-year Chicago
police officer, has no Republican foe for the 4th
District commissioner's slot, but there is a
question whether he can hand off his aldermanic
seat to his daughter, Darcel Beavers, who has been
his chief of staff for over a decade.
being sworn in as a commissioner in early
December, Beavers will resign as alderman and
Daley will appoint his daughter to the seat. But
the Beavers' switcheroo must be ratified by the
voters in the ward next February. Current
indications are that Sandy Jackson, the wife of
U.S. Representative Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-2), who
is an outspoken Daley critic and a possible 2007
mayoral contender, will run, and despite Beavers'
control over nearly 600 county and 250 city jobs,
Beavers would likely lose to Jackson.
Stroger is now the 8th Ward Democratic
committeeman, and he will serve through 2008. But
local knives are being sharpened.
Stroger loses to Peraica, he will remain the
ward's alderman, and he will be up for re-election
in 2007. He certainly will face a Jackson-backed
challenger, which likely will be businessman Odell
Reed. State Representative Marlow Colvin (D-33),
age 42, a longtime 8th Ward precinct captain who
took Todd Stroger's legislative seat in 2001, also
could make a move to oust Stroger as alderman.
however, Stroger is elected board president,
expect Colvin to be the Stroger organization's
2007 aldermanic candidate.
Stroger won his first full term as alderman in
2003 with 69 percent of the vote, getting 8,763
votes. In 1999 the late Alderman Lorraine Dixon, a
Stroger ally, won election with 68 percent of the
vote, getting 18,819 votes. Dixon won with 9,292
votes (65.3 percent) in 1995 and with 9,001 votes
(62 percent) in 1991. In 1987 Stroger ally Keith
Caldwell beat incumbent Marian Humes, who was
under indictment for taking bribes, 14,753-6,031
(57 percent). In 1983 Humes, then Stroger's ally,
won with 76.4 percent of the vote, getting 17,421
votes, and in 1979 she won her first full term
with 66 percent of the vote, getting 8,082 votes.
came after Cousins beat the Stroger machine for
the third time in 1975, getting 52 percent of the
vote. He got 63.4 percent of the vote in 1971, and
he won his first term in 1967, narrowly topping
machine-backed Leslie Bland. Interestingly, in
1963 Chicago Cubs legend Ernie Banks, ran as a
Republican against Alderman James Condon, who was
Stroger's mentor, and got 17.9 percent of the
Stroger machine is capable of cranking out at
least 9,000 votes in every primary, and that will
continue as long as Todd Stroger is board
president. But if he's not, and if Colvin runs and
splits the organization, then an anti-Daley
independent could win the aldermanic spot.
Ward: Just east of the 8th Ward, running from 73rd
Street to 101st Street, west of Torrence Avenue,
in the area known as South Chicago, the ward is an
industrial area with iron and steel plants,
forges, food processors and grain elevators. It
had a white Republican alderman, Nick Bohling,
from 1943 to 1971. The ward is now about 60
percent black and 35 percent Hispanic.
beat Ray Castro, an ally of Ed Vrdolyak, by
8,488-7,288 (53.8 percent) in the 1983 runoff,
buoyed by a huge Washington wave. He ousted Castro
as Democratic committeeman in 1984 by 2,980-2,143,
and he was re-elected alderman in 1987 with 58
percent of the vote, in 1991 with 54 percent, in
1995 with 56.3 percent and in 1999 with 65
percent, and in 2003 he was unopposed. Beavers is
the chairman of the City Council Budget Committee
and a loyal Daley supporter.
already are comparing the expected Sandy
Jackson-versus-Darcel Beavers clash to the 1995
primary in which Jesse Jackson Jr. won the vacant
U.S. House seat. Jackson upset the favored Emil
Jones, an "Old Guard" Democrat who now
is the Illinois Senate president, by
scenario may arise again in 2007, with the
Jacksons positioning themselves as reformers and
the Beavers defending the established order.
Everything depends on whether Stroger beats
Peraica. If he does, the Stroger-Beavers machine
will have the precinct troops to win. If Peraica
wins, Beavers will be an irrelevant commissioner
with control of few jobs.