April 9, 2008


Alliteration is appropriate to describe the abomination that presently constitutes Cook County's government.

The unwise are enabling the untrustworthy to achieve the unacceptable, and that infuriates the unappreciative, and it will cause the unforeseen, namely, the unceremonious unseating of a bunch of unfit county commissioners in 2010.

In other words, nine of 17 commissioners, all Democrats, are abject "Stroger Stooges," capitulating to Cook County Board president Todd Stroger, who barely won election in 2006 after promising to cut the county budget and not raise taxes. The "Dumb Democratic Nine" approved a county sales tax increase of 1 percent, which will generate $400 million annually; it puts them all at risk in the 2010 Democratic primary.

"Big Larry" Suffredin, the commissioner from the Evanston/North Shore 13th District, proved that hypocrisy is not dead. It will be recalled that Suffredin's 2008 campaign for state's attorney proclaimed that he "stood up" to Stroger. As soon as he lost, Big Larry was no more. In exchange for independent oversight of the county hospital system, Suffredin provided the ninth vote needed to pass the tax hike.

Stroger's father, John, was the county board president from 1994 to 2006, and he resigned in August of 2006, after suffering a stroke in March. Todd Stroger was named as his father's replacement, and he beat Republican Tony Peraica by just 94,457 votes, with 53.7 percent of the votes cast. If Peraica loses his bid for state's attorney in 2008, he will run for the county board again in 2010.

In 2007 the county's budget was $3 billion, with 23,383 employees. The 2008 budget is $3.2 billion, with 23,851 employees. The sales tax hike closed a budget hole of $300 million. Stroger has perpetuated his father's practice of hiring a profusion of relatives and family friends and giving them generous pay raises.

While Stroger may be reviled by ethnic and independent white voters and Hispanics, his perceived "victimhood" ingratiates him to his black base. Their concern in 2010 will not be a bloated bureaucracy or a sales tax hike, but rather the fact that some white guys, such as Commissioners Forrest Claypool and Mike Quigley, are trying to beat him. Racial solidarity will prevail, and Stroger will get near-unanimous black support.

But some of the "Stroger Stooges" may not be so fortunate. In danger are white commissioners Suffredin (13th) and Joan Murphy (6th), but not the entrenched John Daley (11th), who is the Finance Committee chairman and Mayor Rich Daley's brother. Among Hispanic commissioners, pro-Stroger Joseph Mario Moreno (7th), from the Cicero area, will be affected, but not the Near North Side anti-Stroger Roberto Maldonado (8th).

The board's five suburban Republicans, along with Democrats Claypool, Quigley and Maldonado, opposed the tax hike.

The five black Democratic commissioners backed the tax hike; all are vulnerable to a calculating challenger who will support Stroger for renomination as president but blast the incumbent for raising taxes. Here's the early outlook:

1st District (West Side and west suburbs, including Oak Park and Maywood): Earlean Collins took this seat when Danny Davis went to Congress in 1996; she was a state senator from 1977 to 1997. Collins never faced a tough primary for commissioner. The word is that state Senator Rickey Hendon (D-5), always eager to expand his sphere of influence, will run and fund somebody against her. If he does, it will be an East-versus-West contest: Hendon's West Town, Garfield Park and South Austin versus Collins' Oak Park, Hillside and Maywood. If Collins maintains her suburban base, she wins.

2nd District (West Loop, Near West Side, Near South Side): Bobbie Steele, who has been a commissioner since 1986, was the acting board president for 5 months after John Stroger resigned. She then quit as a commissioner, enabling her to take a higher pension, and facilitated the selection of her son, Robert Steele, as her replacement. The elder Steele is a longtime Davis ally, and both are quite popular on the West Side. Robert Steele is a "Stroger Stooge," and he has never been elected to any office, but he is favored in 2010.

3rd District (Near South Side extending to the Southwest Side): Incumbent Jerry "Iceman" Butler, once a well known soul singer, has been in office since 1986. He is expected to retire in 2010. A contentious Democratic primary will ensue.

4th District (South Side): John Stroger represented this district since the county districts were created in 1994; before that, from 1970, he had won countywide. The incumbent is Bill Beavers, who served as the alderman of the 7th Ward from 1983 to 2006 and who was appointed to the Stroger vacancy. Beavers' successor as alderman was his daughter Darcel, who was obliterated by Sandi Jackson, the wife of U.S. Representative Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-2), in the 2007 election; Jackson won with 57 percent of the vote. In the 2008 Democratic committeeman's race, Sandi Jackson trounced Bill Beavers with 73.9 percent of the vote. Beavers, age 73, is toast in 2010. The "Jackson Machine" will field a candidate. But remember this: Todd Stroger can run for commissioner in his district in 2010, as well as for board president. If Stroger seeks Beavers' seat, he will win.

7th District (Cicero, Berwyn, Southwest Side): Moreno, who was first elected in 1994, is definitely damaged goods. He moved from Chicago to Cicero in 2000, and he lost bids for Cicero town president in 2001 (getting 40.5 percent of the vote) and 2003 (getting 39.6 percent); he is now back in Chicago. Being a "Stroger Stooge" will prove fatal in 2010, when he will face a conservative, Hispanic anti-Stroger challenger.

9th District (Northwest Side plus Rosemont, River Grove, River Forest, Elmwood Park, Franklin Park, Schiller Park, Norridge, Harwood Heights and Park Ridge, and parts of Glenview, Des Plaines, Niles and Morton Grove): Incumbent Republican Pete Silvestri, the Elmwood Park village president, was first elected in 1994 with 54 percent of the vote, and he was re-elected in 1998 and 2002 with 54 percent and in 2006 with 57 percent. Silvestri opposed the sales tax hike.

The non-aggression pact between Democratic Alderman Bill Banks (36th) and state Senator Jim DeLeo (D-10), and Silvestri's allies, Republican Alderman Brian Doherty (41st) and state Representative Mike McAuliffe (R-20), means that they don't try to defeat each other and that the Banks-DeLeo Democrats don't try to beat Silvestri.

But Jodi Biancalana, an anti-Banks Democrat from the 36th Ward, waged an underfunded campaign against Silvestri in 2006 and lost by 11,107 votes. "He (Banks) had a Silvestri lawn sign in front of his house," said Biancalana. "What kind of Democrat is he?"

Biancalana is running again in 2010, as is Pat Mulligan, who finished fourth in the 2008 41st Ward Democratic committeeman's race. "I'm not running (for commissioner)," said Ralph Capparelli, a foe of the Banks-DeLeo clique. Ditto for Norridge trustee Rob Martwick, the son of the township Democratic committeeman, who lost to Silvestri in 2002. "I am not a candidate," Martwick said.

The outlook: Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan and Mayor Daley are staunch backers of Stroger. They may recruit and fund a candidate against Silvestri. An Irish-surnamed woman would be formidable. To be sure, Silvestri's anti-tax stance makes him a slight favorite, but an anti-Republican trend in 2010 could sink him.

13th District (North Shore, including Skokie, Lincolnwood, Evanston, Wilmette, Kenilworth, Winnetka and Glencoe, plus the 49th and 50th wards): Suffredin, an Evanston attorney and a lobbyist, upset incumbent Cal Sutker in the 2002 primary by 20,993-16,566 (getting 55.8 percent of the vote), buoyed by a huge Evanston vote. He was renominated without opposition in 2006, but his failed 2008 bid for state's attorney and the fact that he reneged on his no-tax-hike pledge make him vulnerable in 2010. He will face a Skokie-based foe.

14th District (North suburbs: Northfield stretching west to Barrington, north of Central Road): Republican incumbent Gregg Goslin was re-elected by just 6,973 votes (getting 53.8 percent of the vote) in 2006. Shifting demographics may trump opposition to taxes. Goslin is at risk in 2010 because he's a Republican, not a "Stroger Stooge."

16th District (Western suburbs: Berwyn, LaGrange, Willow Springs): Incumbent Peraica, despite his high-visibility race for board president, was re-elected as a commissioner by just 1,669 votes, with 51.2 percent of the votes cast. His 2006 Democratic foe, Bill Gomolinski, was funded by allies of Ed Vrdolyak and Ed Burke. Gomolinski lost a bid for judge in the 2008 primary, so he's now history. "They ran a shrewd campaign," said one Peraica aide. "They said: Vote for Tony for president and for Gomolinski for commissioner. It almost worked." The 2010 outlook: Peraica will not be elected state's attorney in 2008, but he could beat Stroger in the 2010 election. A polarizing figure, Peraica's hold on his district is tenuous.

17th District (West suburbs: Orland Park north to Arlington Heights): Incumbent Liz Gorman, a fierce rival and critic of Peraica, was the county Republican chairman for the past 2 years. She didn't cover herself with glory, but she won in 2006 by 49,425-39,473, getting 55.6 percent of the vote, and she should win easily in 2010.