Toni Preckwinkle victorious despite pop tax

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Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle enters Shoesmith Elementary School to cast her ballot on March 20, 2018. | Max Herman/For the Sun-Times

Though the pop tax fell flat in October,  Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle stayed afloat and survived to see a third term.

Preckwinkle received 60 percent of the vote with 97 percent of precincts reporting Tuesday night. Her challenger, former 2nd Ward Ald. Bob Fioretti, got roughly 40 percent of the vote.

While the numbers were still coming in Sally Daly, a spokeswoman for Fioretti, said that he had conceded.

“Voter turnout was disappointingly low and we know that had an impact on the numbers,” Daly said. “But Bob is feeling energized, his message resonated with a lot of people and he’s not done.”

Though the pop tax that Preckwinkle supported was defeated, many voters hung on to lingering ill feelings.

Former Ald. Bob Fioretti, during his 2019 campaign for Cook County state’s attorney.

Bob Fioretti, Cook County Board president candidate. | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times file

Fioretti had previously said that many are tax fatigued and are “ready for change.”

The race was seen as an uphill battle for Fioretti by some, given his lack of name recognition in comparison to the two-term incumbent.

Fioretti said that he welcomed the challenge and felt that people who wanted a change from the “machine politics” of the county should vote for him.

Preckwinkle, who is a former alderman herself, touted her ability to rightsize government in her eight years, as well as the ability to get criminal justice reforms as the reasons why voters should elect her again.

Though Fioretti made the beverage tax a key component in his campaign, he did not receive money from the American Beverage Association like candidates on the county board did.

Tarrah Cooper, a spokeswoman with the Citizens For A More Affordable Cook County, a PAC that’s funded by the American Beverage Association, the National Restaurant Association as well as other Chicago residents and businesses, said the result of the race shows that the beverage tax weakened Preckwinkle’s standing in the county.

“This election is a victory for Cook County working families and small businesses who overwhelmingly opposed the unfair and harmful beverage tax,” Cooper said. “Nearly every candidate running for the County Board campaigned in opposition to the beverage tax, underscoring that the tax was both bad policy and unpopular with voters. We hope Cook County’s political leadership has gotten the message.”

Last October, commissioners were forced to fill a $200 million budget gap caused by the repeal of the sweetened beverage tax , a process that resulted in over 300 layoffs.

Fioretti said if he was elected, there won’t need to be more layoffs. He said that he would close up vacancies, look at savings at Cook County Jail and other avenues for saving the county money that don’t require new taxes or mass layoffs. The goal is to keep people in the county, he said.

Preckwinkle had said that was unreasonable and “it’s easy to say that you can cut the budget by further staff reductions, the question is where do you intend to make them and what impact is that going to have on either our legacy mission or our economic development initiatives.”

Preckwinkle said this would be her last term.

She could not be reached Tuesday night.

“I had an agenda for myself when I ran for this job and these are things I care about: access to public health, criminal justice reform, economic development,” Preckwinkle previously told the Sun-Times. “I made a commitment, I was going to try to do something about the county, both in terms of its fiscal operation and its substantive agenda so that’s what I’m going to try to do for one more term.”

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