Over the past few months, Toni Preckwinkle has refused to discuss whether she planned to seek a fourth term as Cook County Board president, but she left no doubt Thursday that she’d be on the ballot in 2022.
“Of course,” Preckwinkle responded, flashing a wry smile.
“When I decided to run for mayor I realized there were a lot of things I still wanted to do,” Preckwinkle said. “I think there’s a lot of good work that I can still do.”
As for announcing so early, Preckwinkle said that’s to make sure “people know where I am.”
If Preckwinkle, 72, is re-elected and serves the full four-year term, she will have run Cook County government longer than any other board president except George W. Dunne, who served nearly 22 years before stepping down in 1990.
Preckwinkle had initially said this term would be her last, but the Chicago Sun-Times first reported this week that the Hyde Park Democrat had changed her mind.
At a fundraiser at the Chicago Cultural Center Tuesday, Preckwinkle worked the room, glad-handing other politicians and county employees and leaving the job of announcing her re-election bid to her political director Scott Kastrup.
“Yes, she’s running again,” Kastrup told the Sun-Times on Tuesday. “We’re pleased to be doing this [fundraiser] again, and she’s definitely running for re-election for the County Board.”
And the re-election bid seemed to already be in full swing, though Preckwinkle still has about three and a half years left in her current term. Buttons emblazoned with Preckwinkle’s face were on sign-in tables for guests bearing the simple message “Re-elect Toni Preckwinkle President of Cook County Board.”
Back in 2018, Preckwinkle declared that her current term, which began last December, would be her last.
But she’s changed her tune since that April runoff loss to Lori Lightfoot, steadily backing away from that closed-door stance. Just days after the loss in the mayoral race, she opened it a crack refusing to say definitively if she still planned to step down after her current term ends.
“You know, I’m looking forward to the next four years,” Preckwinkle said when asked if this term would be her last.
“I’ve got a lot of work to do,” she repeated at the time when pressed on whether this would be her final term.
At a Thursday news conference, Preckwinkle reiterated that stance as a reason to run again.
But she didn’t address whether she’s worried that her April shellacking — losing her home ward and carrying only 20 of the city’s 2,069 precincts — and lingering frustration over the penny-an-ounce sweetened beverage tax that briefly went into effect in 2017 would fuel political opposition three and a half years from now.
“When I first ran for this office I thought that I would have to do a lot of difficult things, and we surely did in the first four years,” Preckwinkle said. “We made a lot of hard choices, which have made it, frankly, progressively easier to deal with our challenges.
“In 2014, I didn’t have any opposition, and in 2018 [former Ald.] Bob Fioretti was the candidate against me. We’re just going to continue to do the good work we’ve been doing.”