Less than a week after allies of Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced they were creating a fund-raising behemoth known as a Super PAC, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle suggested she may be closing the door to challenging Emanuel in 2015.
When asked Thursday why no credible challenger to Emanuel has emerged, Preckwinkle said: “I don’t know. You should talk to people who are thinking about running for mayor.”
She continued: “I’m running for re-election for the job I have. I’ve laid out our plan for the coming year and the challenges we face in the next term.”
Preckwinkle, however, did not categorically rule out a run for mayor.
Her remarks, given to reporters following an address to the City Club public affairs luncheon, were a rare break from script.
Preckwinkle is running unopposed for a second four-year term and will likely sail into office during the Nov. 4 general election — months before the February 2015 mayoral election. Theoretically, that could allow her to win re-election and then announce a mayoral run.
For months, Preckwinkle supporters have beaten the drum, urging her to run for mayor. And for months Preckwinkle has refused to rule out the possibility, offering the de facto response of: “I’m running for re-election for the job I have.”
Last week, Ken Snyder, a political consultant for Preckwinkle, criticized Emanuel’s new Super PAC, saying, “This is obviously an attempt to create a phony arms-length between Rahm and negative attack ads against a potential opponent, which no one will believe is true and reveals that Rahm’s camp doesn’t believe he can win by exclusively talking about his record.”
When asked Thursday if Emanuel’s allies were trying to send Preckwinkle a message by creating the Super PAC — a political action committed without fund-raising limits that would be run separately from Emanuel’s re-election campaign — Preckwinkle deflected the question, saying: “If you want to know what the mayor thinks, you should ask him.”
“I’m responsible for myself,” Preckwinkle said. “If you want to know why Rahm Emanuel does things, you should ask him.”
During the City Club of Chicago luncheon, Preckwinkle offered a broad outline of where the county will be financially-speaking in 2015. The county usually controls an annual budget of about $3 billion.
This year the county faces a projected $169 million shortfall, according to Preckwinkle’s staff. The shortfall is driven by contractually locked-in employee wages, a decrease in taxable property sales, low sales tax collections and increased costs of healthcare.
Preckwinkle offered few specifics to cope with the shortfall. But, generally speaking, her staff is looking to reduce expenses and increase revenue.
However, Preckwinkle did rule out increases in the sales taxes, property taxes or employee layoffs.