Victories few for Preckwinkle on Election Night

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Election Night was a great night for political types who call themselves progressives, but not so much for the politician many of them want to run against Mayor Rahm Emanuel next year.

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle sided with the loser in the marquee fight between progressives and machine politicians in Tuesday’s Democratic primary. Preckwinkle endorsed state Rep. Toni Berrios (D-Chicago), appearing in a campaign video for the daughter of county party boss and nepotism king Joe Berrios.

Not only did Toni Berrios suffer a landslide loss to left-leaning upstart Will Guzzardi, but the two County Board candidates who got the most money from Preckwinkle’s own political fund also fared poorly at the polls. Incumbent Cook County Commissioner Edwin Reyes (D-Chicago) and rookie candidate Blake Sercye each received the maximum total contributions of $52,500 from Preckwinkle and lost.


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Please enable Javascript to watch this videoSo did another Preckwinkle pick: Josina Morita, who got $5,000 from the Preckwinkle For President campaign fund in her failed run for a seat on the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago board.

Preckwinkle — who ran unopposed in the primary — could take some solace in the victories of state Rep. Christian Mitchell (D-Chicago) and all but one of the judicial candidates she endorsed.

And almost all of the blame for Toni Berrios’ loss must be assigned to her puppet masters – her dad and Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago) – rather than Preckwinkle. It was Joe Berrios and Madigan who largely funded Toni Berrios’ failed re-election effort

Still, you can’t help but contrast the gloom felt Tuesday night by many of Preckwinkle’s friends with the soaring rhetoric about Chicago’s “progressive movement” at the Guzzardi victory party in Logan Square.

“The whole city is watching what we did here,” Guzzardi told supporters. “This election didn’t happen in a vacuum.”

According to the triumphant political neophyte, he’s part of “a powerful movement in Chicago.”

Guzzardi has lived in Chicago just five years but referenced an event that occurred here long before he was born: The 1983 election of Mayor Harold Washington. Guzzardi claimed his win was another milestone for a movement that once elected Washington.

In his campaign and in the speech, the 26-year-old Guzzardi laid out the key issues he believes are motivating the movement these days:

Improving traditional public schools, as opposed to opening new charter schools.

Preserving pensions for public employees.

Changing a tax structure in which “the very wealthy and the biggest corporations ought to be held accountable to pay their fair share, just like the rest of us.”

Putting aside how practical this progressive worldview may or may not be, Guzzardi’s speech represented exactly the sort of Bill de Blasio-style platform that leftist Democrats hope to hear from the mouth of a viable Chicago mayoral challenger in 2015.

Yet, even in the one big race where Preckwinkle’s choice won on Tuesday, she was on the same side as Emanuel and on the opposite side of many self-styled progressives.

Mitchell got campaign cash from Emanuel, Madigan and from wealthy proponents of the charter-school movement. The teachers’ union and other labor groups heavily aided Mitchell’s challenger, as they did for Guzzardi.

On Wednesday, an adviser to Preckwinkle said she wouldn’t worry whether her coattails were looking a bit short.

“She contributes to the people she supports — she doesn’t run their campaigns,” says Ken Snyder, who produced campaign commercials for Preckwinkle’s 2010 campaign for County Board president.

Preckwinkle endorses “who she believes in and lets the chips fall where they fall,” Snyder adds. “She is not a political boss.”

She so far has pointedly declined to rule out a run for mayor next year. Before she could run, though, Preckwinkle may have to make clearer which members of an increasingly divided Democratic Party she truly is most at home among.

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