After 39 years in politics, Clerk David Orr won’t seek re-election

Cook County Clerk David Orr at Wednesday's announcement on Daley Plaza. He said he will not seek another term. | Rachel Hinton/For the Sun-Times

Cook County Clerk David Orr, who has served in his position for more than a quarter-century and in politics for nearly four decades, will serve out his term but won’t seek re-election next year, Orr announced on Wednesday.

The Democrat became Cook County clerk in 1991 and is serving his eighth term.

“This was not an easy decision to make, nor was it a political one,” Orr said in his announcement. “Rather, today’s decision is a deeply personal choice that I have tussled with for some time because I care so much about the office, politics and the people in the office.

“I am very tempted to run again, but realistically, since the next election is not until November 2018, I cannot make the commitment that I would serve another four-year term that would not end until December 2022.

“By December 2018 I will have spent 39 years in elected office and an additional 11 years as a college professor. By my count, that’s a half century as a public servant and it has been an honor to serve you.”

After finishing his term, Orr said he will remain in Chicago and may return to teaching; before running for office, he had been an assistant professor of history and urban affairs, according to his biography on the county clerk website.

Orr, 72, was elected to the Chicago City Council in 1979. He served as mayor for eight days after the unexpected death of Harold Washington, Orr’s ally and the city’s first black mayor.

Cook County Recorder of Deeds Karen Yarborough has said she’ll run for clerk in 2018. Her office is set to be merged into the clerk’s office in 2020.

Others could throw their names into the ring when Cook County Democratic Party leaders meet on Thursday for their “pre-slating” session for countywide and statewide candidates seeking the party’s endorsement.

Among other duties, the clerk’s office oversees elections in suburban Cook County and calculates property taxes.

Elected officals, including Mayor Rahm Emanuel, heaped praise on Orr. “I am confident that the sense of passion and purpose that were the hallmarks of his public life will continue to guide him in his well-earned retirement, and I join generations of Chicagoans in expressing my gratitude to Clerk Orr,” the mayor said.

Orr made a plea for renewed faith in government during his last few minutes of his retirement news conference.

“We have an authoritarian president and Americans rapidly losing faith in their country,” Orr said. “We must restore faith in government.”

Contributing: Associated Press