I wish I understood what possessed Todd Stroger to run for Cook County Board president again.
Did somebody promise him something, a real job maybe?
Or did it only require whispering sweet nothings in his ear to pump up his ego and make him believe the voters of Cook County are pining for his return to power?
“You got a raw deal the first time, Todd.”
“The people need you, Todd. You can beat Toni.”
“You’ve been vindicated on the sales tax increase, Todd. Even that mean Mark Brown said so.”
I’ve never been able to locate the source of the siren song that causes some men and women to imagine that the public is clamoring for their leadership.
It’s especially confounding when it seems painfully obvious there is no such yearning, when the public has already pronounced its verdict in a clear and unmistakable voice.
Yet Stroger, who barely cracked double digits in finishing fourth in a four-way primary in his 2010 re-election bid, now believes Toni Preckwinkle’s pop tax troubles have given him an opening for a comeback.
Until Monday, Stroger said he was planning to run for a seat on the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District in 2018, a harmless enough position he might have stood an outside chance of winning with a little help from some of his father’s old friends.
But while he was in the process of circulating his nominating petitions for Water Rec, Stroger says he kept hearing from people who encouraged him to instead run for county board president to capitalize on discontent with Preckwinkle.
I try to avoid writing about county government these days because my wife works for the sheriff’s office, but the bosses were interested in my take on this.
I also promised myself long ago that I was done kicking Todd Stroger around. He’s too easy a target, and I really do believe he earned a measure of vindication when Preckwinkle reinstated the one cent sales tax increase that got Stroger in trouble in the first place.
I actually feel sorry for Stroger because I suspect someone is using him for their own purposes, just as they have used him ever since his father, then-Cook County Board President John Stroger Jr., suffered a stroke in 2006.
Putting Todd Stroger into that job was a way for everyone to protect the status quo of an informal power sharing arrangement that kept the peace in the Democratic Party by giving African-Americans a piece of the leadership pie.
It’s not clear to me exactly who it helps for Stroger to join the race.
One possibility is that it will cut into Preckwinkle’s vote in the African-American community.
But the other possibility is that Stroger could take black anti-Preckwinkle votes from former 2nd Ward Ald. Robert Fioretti, the only other major candidate.
When I spoke to him Monday, Stroger said he thinks he’s more popular among African-Americans than Preckwinkle. I’m not sure the polling will bear that out.
Stroger seemed to understand the ramifications of putting himself back in the line of fire.
“I just don’t mind defending my position. It doesn’t hurt me any more. You put yourself out there, and rejection is rejection,” he said.
Stroger said it also helps that he turns 55 in January, which will allow him to begin drawing his public pension.
“It takes some stress off your life,” said Stroger, who had difficulty finding employment after leaving office before finally landing a minor staff position with Ald. Howard Brookins (21st).
Of course, the pension is also bound to be a potential campaign issue for his opponents.
Stroger said he went though a “very tough” period but now is ready and eager to defend his record.
“My personal feeling is I’ve done a good job,” he said.
Stroger should understand he’s going to have a more difficult time convincing voters of that than someone else did convincing him to run.