Toni Preckwinkle was portrayed Friday as an elected official consumed with “maintaining political power” who “only seems to find her way to do the right thing when she’s caught and cornered.”
Lori Lightfoot came out swinging hours after Preckwinkle fired campaign manager Scott Cisek for using a photograph of Nazis on trial at Nuremberg to attack Lightfoot.
Preckwinkle has now fired her chief of staff, chief of security and campaign manager — all since her belated entry into the mayoral race after incumbent Rahm Emanuel’s exit.
That revolving door and the delayed reaction to Cisek’s tasteless Facebook post says a lot about Preckwinkle and the kind of mayor she would be, Lightfoot said.
“Toni Preckwinkle has been a person, over the arc of this campaign, that only seems to find her way to do the right thing when she’s caught and cornered,” Lightfoot told the Chicago Sun-Times.
“She makes very bad decisions about the people that she aligns herself with. Whether it’s Tony Rezko, whether it’s Scott Cisek, Scott Keller, her security chief and, of course, Ed Burke, Ed Burke Ed Burke.”
Adding former Cook County Assessor Joe Berrios to that list, Lightfoot asked aloud why Preckwinkle would “align herself with people like that” then proceeded to answer the question.
“She aspired to climb the ladder of being a party boss and, as a consequence, made a lot of compromises along the way that have played out and show that she’s a very different person,” she said.
“We need somebody who is gonna do the right thing because it’s the right to do — not because they’re forced to do it because there’s no other political way out.”
The Preckwinkle campaign had no immediate comment about Lightfoot’s blast.
In firing Cisek, Preckwinkle denounced the “unconscionable” Facebook post for its “insensitivity to the issue of anti-Semitism.”
Arguing that the post “does not reflect my values or the values of my campaign,” Preckwinkle apologized to Lightfoot and to “everyone who was offended by this insensitive comment.”
Cisek’s offensive post and the midnight firing it triggered marks the latest in a string of self-inflicted wounds by Preckwinkle.
Preckwinkle stumbled out of the gate with what she knew and when she knew it about the sexual harassment allegations that prompted her to fire her chief of staff.
Her security chief accused Preckwinkle of making him a political scapegoat for the accident that totaled a county-owned SUV used by her security team with campaign materials in the backseat.
Preckwinkle has also struggled to regain her footing after being dragged into the federal corruption scandal that threatens to bring down Ald. Edward Burke (14th), former longtime chairman of the City Council’s Finance Committee.
On Jan. 3, Burke was charged with attempted extortion for allegedly muscling a Burger King franchise owner for legal business and for a $10,000 campaign contribution to Preckwinkle’s re-election campaign as county board president.
Preckwinkle reported the donation, only after Burke was charged. She has since returned all $116,000 she raised at a January, 2018 fundraiser at Burke’s house.
She has also struggled to explain why she promoted Burke’s son to a sensitive homeland security job with the county — after a personal appeal from the alderman — even though Edward Burke Jr. was under investigation at the time for inappropriate comments made at the sheriff’s office.
Lightfoot argued that Preckwinkle has “made herself a fact witness in the Ed Burke case” because of the fundraiser and would be “questioned by the FBI” if she hasn’t been already.
“They’re gonna want to know what was said. How did this fundraiser come to be? And they’re gonna look, of course, at every dollar that was raised during that fundraiser to make a determination if Ed Burke put the arm improperly on anybody else,” Lightfoot said.
Lightfoot scoffed at Preckwinkle’s claim that Illinois Supreme Court Justice Anne Burke —not the alderman— was responsible for throwing the January, 2018 fundraiser at the Burke home.
“She threw Anne Burke under the bus. Of course, Anne Burke had nothing to do with that fundraiser…She’s a good and able judge. She knows what the rules are. That had nothing to do with Anne Burke. It had everything to do with Toni Preckwinkle’s relationship with Ed Burke,” Lightfoot said.
“She’s got to explain that — and she hasn’t yet.”
A former federal prosecutor, Lightfoot predicted that the ongoing federal investigation would “rock the city” after the election, when federal prosecutors face a May 3 deadline to indict Burke.
“There’s a lot of different tentacles to this and a lot that, frankly, hasn’t been disclosed,” Lightfoot said.
“When you have [Ald.] Danny Solis wearing a wire for two years — the chairman of the Zoning [Committee] who so many people had to come and kiss the ring because of the position of power he held, the doors that he could walk into. Your imagination is not gonna be able to conjure up what I think is gonna ultimately be rolled out in a series of criminal complaints and indictments.”