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Toni Preckwinkle dodges questions about running for mayor

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle refused to say on Wednesday whether she will challenge Mayor Rahm Emanuel when he faces re-election in 2015.

When asked whether she would rule out the possibility of taking on the mayor, Preckwinkle dodged the question, telling reporters after a Cook County board meeting: “I’m running for re-election for the job I’ve got.”

But here’s the rub: Preckwinkle, running unopposed for a second four-year term, will likely sail into office during the Nov. 4 general election — well before the February 2015 mayoral election.

What’s more, when asked whether she would commit to fulfilling a second four-year term, Preckwinkle refused to answer that question, repeating: “I said I’m running for re-election for the job I have.”

Over past weeks, Preckwinkle’s camp has sent conflicting signals about a potential mayoral candidacy after Mayor Rahm Emanuel addressed the issue in an exclusive interview with Early & Often.

Emanuel told a reporter with the Sun-Times’ new political portal that Preckwinkle had assured him she was not running.

But once the interview appeared online last week, a Preckwinkle political operative promptly denied Preckwinkle had said anything of the kind.

Then, just hours later, Preckwinkle’s governmental spokeswoman Kristen Mack essentially backed Emanuel’s version, saying Preckwinkle “has told him on more than one occasion that she has no intention of running for mayor.”

Preckwinkle “feels she has more work to do. County board president is the job she signed up for, and she wants to continue to improve things with county health and the criminal justice system,” Mack said last week.

When asked Wednesday to characterize her talk with the mayor, which happened over breakfast about a month ago, Preckwinkle didn’t stray from the script.

“Y’know, I said to him what I say to everybody, which is: ‘I’m running for re-election for the job I’ve got,’ ” Preckwinkle said. “I didn’t run for this job as a platform for something else.”

Contributing: Fran Spielman