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Mayoral jockeying takes center stage amid St. Patrick’s Day Parade revelry

David Westerby at the Chicago St. Patrick's Day Parade. | James Foster/For the Sun-Times

David Westerby at the Chicago St. Patrick's Day Parade. | James Foster/For the Sun-Times

An outgoing mayor. Two mayoral hopefuls. A senator. A prime minister. The world’s most infamous MMA fighter. A Cook County official fresh off being implicated in a bribery indictment.

The familiar yet assorted bunch gathered Saturday at the front of the city’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade — the main event celebrating a holiday known for flocks of teens and college students roaming downtown — brought attention for all sorts of reasons.

Flexera in the Chicago St. Patrick's Day Parade. | James Foster/For the Sun-Times

Flexera in the Chicago St. Patrick’s Day Parade. | James Foster/For the Sun-Times

It was the political jockeying, however, that drew the most stares as the mayoral runoff draws near.

The parade’s grand marshal was Terry Hancock, the president of Teamsters Joint Council 25, which is a 100,000-member union that  endorsed Toni Preckwinkle on Thursday. The parade’s sponsor, the Chicago Journeymen Plumbers Local Union 130, endorsed Lori Lightfoot two days earlier.

Toni Preckwinkle and Governor Pritzker at the Chicago St. Patrick's Day Parade. | James Foster/For the Sun-Times

Toni Preckwinkle and Governor Pritzker at the Chicago St. Patrick’s Day Parade. | James Foster/For the Sun-Times

Standing mere feet apart at the start of the parade, Preckwinkle and Lightfoot took pictures with a man whose beard was dyed green and another who had green cans glued to his head.

Speaking to reporters, both mayoral candidates explained why they had a deep connection with the Irish-American holiday.

“The first time I ever came to Chicago, I was a college freshman, and I came on St. Patrick’s Day,” Lightfoot said. “So this is like an anniversary day for me of really — what I didn’t know then — is the start of my life in this great city.”

Mayoral Candidate Lori Lightfoot poses with supporters at the Chicago St. Patrick's Day Parade. | James Foster/For the Sun-Times

Mayoral Candidate Lori Lightfoot poses with supporters at the Chicago St. Patrick’s Day Parade. | James Foster/For the Sun-Times

Preckwinkle, meanwhile, made her attempt to lay claim to even deeper St. Paddy’s Day roots.

“I was born on St. Patrick’s Day, so I’ve always had a special affection for the holiday,” Preckwinkle said. “This is one of the best parades in the city, one of the longest and one of the most enthusiastic crowds.”

Mayor Rahm Emanuel at the Chicago St. Patrick's Day Parade.| James Foster/For the Sun-Times

Mayor Rahm Emanuel at the Chicago St. Patrick’s Day Parade.| James Foster/For the Sun-Times

Though Lightfoot was the one endorsed by the plumber’s union that sponsored the parade, it was Preckwinkle who marched front and center next to Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D. Ill, Gov. J.B. Pritzker and MMA fighter Conor McGregor — a proud Irishman who walked with the group despite being charged earlier in the week with robbery and criminal mischief.

The Shannon Rovers at the Chicago St. Patrick's Day Parade. | James Foster/For the Sun-Times

The Shannon Rovers at the Chicago St. Patrick’s Day Parade. | James Foster/For the Sun-Times

Off to the side was Cook County Circuit Courts Clerk Dorothy Brown, who on Friday was implicated — though not charged or even named — in a federal indictment that alleged Brown and her campaign received illegal payments and favors in exchange for official government business with her office.