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Toni Preckwinkle reverses decision to retire — aide says she will seek fourth term in 2022

“Yes, she’s running again,” Scott Kastrup, Preckwinkle’s political director, said at a fundraiser at the Chicago Cultural Center. “We’re pleased to be doing this [fundraiser] again, and she’s definitely running for re-election for the County Board.”

Toni Preckwinkle’s re-election buttons at her fundraiser Tuesday at the Chicago Cultural Center.
Toni Preckwinkle’s re-election buttons at her fundraiser Tuesday at the Chicago Cultural Center.
Rachel Hinton/Sun-Times

It looks like Toni Preckwinkle isn’t ready to ride off into the sunset after all.

Nearly three months after a blowout loss to Lori Lightfoot in the April mayoral election, Preckwinkle on Tuesday kicked wide open the door to seeking another term as Cook County Board president.

“Yes, she’s running again,” Scott Kastrup, Preckwinkle’s political director, said at a fundraiser held at the Chicago Cultural Center. “We’re pleased to be doing this [fundraiser] again, and she’s definitely running for re-election for the County Board.”

Tuesday’s event left little doubt that that was the plan.

A jazz band played tunes such as Dave Brubeck’s classic “Take Five” as supporters filed into the room. At the sign-in tables, donors were encouraged to take buttons emblazoned with Preckwinkle’s face.

The messaging was simple: Re-elect Toni Preckwinkle President of Cook County Board.”

Preckwinkle worked the room, hugging and shaking hands with politicians, county employees and others. The crowd included Ald. Pat Dowell (3rd), County Commissioner John Daley, state Sen. Robert Peters, D-Chicago, and Ald. Patrick Daley Thompson (11th).

Back in 2018, Preckwinkle declared that her current term, which began last year, would be her last.

But since losing the April runoff, she has steadily backed away from that stance.

Mayoral candidate and Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle
Mayoral candidate and Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle in 2018. File Photo.
Max Herman/For the Sun-Times

Just days after the mayoral race, Preckwinkle refused to say definitively that she still planned to step down after her current term ends in 2022.

“You know, I’m looking forward to the next four years,” Preckwinkle said when asked if this term would be her last. “We’ve got a lot on our plate, starting with, frankly, our work on the Census. Billions of dollars are at stake not just for us in the county but every taxing body within the county all the cities towns and villages all the school districts and not to mention our congressional delegation.”

“I’ve got a lot of work to do,” she repeated at the time when pressed on whether this would be her final term.

Preckwinkle did not talk to a reporter who showed up at her fundraiser Tuesday.

But Kastrup said her reasoning behind running again would likely be focused on the work Preckwinkle still says she has left to do. The two haven’t talked about that yet, though — Preckwinkle is only a little over six months into her current, third term as president.

After clobbering former Ald. Bob Fioretti in the Democratic primary last year, Preckwinkle ruled out another run for her current office, saying “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.”

“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,” she said last year.

About a month after that pronouncement, Preckwinkle won her bid to become the first African American, and first woman, to take the once mighty seat of power as Cook County Democratic chairman. She went on to easily win re-election as board president last year, but after Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s surprise decision not to seek re-election, Preckwinkle lost her quest to become the first black woman to serve as Chicago mayor.

If she does win a fourth term as board president in 2022, Preckwinkle would be 75 when she is sworn in.

That’s a year younger than County Board President John Stroger was when a stroke effectively ended his political career in 2006 in the middle of his campaign for a fourth term. George W. Dunne was 77 when he finished out his nearly 22-year tenure as board president in 1990.

Dan Ryan was 66 when he died in office in 1961 after more than 30 years on the Board, the final seven as board president. His father, Dan Ryan Sr., was a board member from 1914 until his death in 1923 and board president from 1921-22.