Vowing to end ‘Good Old Boys Club,’ Preckwinkle seeks county’s top Dem post

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Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle and Cook County Assessor Joseph Berrios at the Polish Constitution Day Parade in downtown Chicago in 2016. | Brian Jackson / Sun-Times

It’s a go!

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, who handily won re-election despite the Soda Tax imbroglio, has decided to seek the chairmanship of the Cook County Dem party—an office now held by ousted Cook County Assessor Joe Berrios, who may be stepping down.

Preckwinkle, who is now vice chair of the County Dem party, gave her thumbs up to run as “chair” of the Dem County party Friday afternoon.

“It’s time to keep the spot gender neutral,” quipped a top Dem source.

Earlier this week, Preckwinkle handily beat her challenger, ex-Ald. Bob Fioretti, in the race for Cook County Board president. Preckwinkle got about 60 percent of the vote, compared with about 40 percent for Fioretti. Berrios, meanwhile lost the primary race to keep his job as Cook County assessor to Fritz Kaegi, in an upset.

Preckwinkle won despite her push for the controversial pop tax, which was eventually rolled back. She has said this term will be her last.

Hours after Sneed broke the story, Preckwinkle made it official, releasing a statement pledging to “reject politics as usual” and ensure the party is not “a Good Old Boys Club.”

Statement from Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle on Seeking Chairmanship of Cook County Democratic Party:

Today I am announcing that I will seek the leadership of the Cook County Democratic Party in April. At a time when Donald Trump and Republicans in Washington are trying to take our country backward, it is critical that Cook County has leaders who are committed to moving our communities forward.

As Cook County Board President, I’m proud of the work we have done to improve to expand access to healthcare, bring meaningful reform to our broken criminal justice system, and to treat gun violence as the public health crisis that it is. We have balanced the county budget every year, raised the county’s bond rating, and strengthened the Office of the Inspector General to root out waste, fraud, and abuse.

We have done it all while making county government more inclusive, more transparent, and more accountable – and we are just getting started. I am grateful to President Obama for his support of my re-election and to Cook County Democrats for their vote of confidence on Tuesday so that we may continue the work of making government work for all of us.

To keep Cook County moving forward, we must also reject politics-as-usual. Our Democratic Party cannot and must not be a Good Old Boys Club. Women, working people, young people, and communities of color are leading the grassroots resistance to Donald Trump’s dangerous agenda. It is past time that we had a party where their voices are truly heard and their contributions are truly valued.

We will build a modern party that not only reflects our communities’ tremendous diversity but that actually embraces openness as our fundamental organizing principle. Lasting change comes from bottom-up – not the top-down. We will work to bring new people into the process and empower activists throughout the county and give them the tools they need to lead change. Our party’s future will be powered not by special interest money and career politicians but by grassroots organizing and ordinary citizens.                                                                                                                       

This work is critical to building the broad coalition we need to defeat Bruce Rauner and elect J.B. Pritzker and to elect candidates up-and-down the ballot this November who stand for working families and social justice. But it is even more critical to our long-term future. A successful, modern Democratic Party must mobilize new technology, new ideas, and new people.

In the weeks ahead I look forward to speaking with party activists and grassroots leaders across the county about the change we need. And more than anything, I’ll be listening.

I thank Democratic voters for their continued support of our efforts to bring real change to Cook County and now invite them to join me in bringing real change to the Cook County Democratic Party.

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