Todd Stroger wants his old job back — almost eight years after voters gave the one-term Cook County Board president the boot.
Stroger, who finished dead last in the four-way Democratic primary of 2010, made the announcement on WFLD-Channel 32 on Monday, vowing to run a “very, very competitive” race.
He said the county, under Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, is in a “precarious situation.” He also said that recent history has helped restore his reputation.
“There’s a lot of people who are not happy with the current administration, and I think there’s a lot of people who felt I had done a good job,” Stroger said.
Stroger cited the outcry over the since-repealed penny-per-ounce soda tax that Preckwinkle pushed as a primary reason for his political comeback attempt.
“I felt vindicated when they had to bring the whole tax back,” Stroger said of the soda tax.
Speaking to reporters at an event on the South Side, Preckwinkle said she’s spent years cleaning up Stroger’s “mess.”
“In this country, anybody who wants to run for office can do that. We’ve spent the last seven years trying to clean up the mess that he made. We’ve closed budget gaps of about $2 billion, reduced our workforce by 15 percent, … and reduced our indebtedness 11 percent. I’m proud of the record that we’ve achieved and we’re going to run on it,” Preckwinkle said.
Stroger had been eyeing a return to political office for some time. In October, he told the Chicago Sun-Times he was considering a run for a seat on the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District board, which oversees the city’s sanitary sewer system.
But he faces a tough battle ahead, both to gather the thousands of signatures necessary to get his name on the ballot and to raise the funds for so high profile a race.
Voters are also likely to recall how Stroger’s former top aide, Carla Oglesby, ended up going to prison for theft and money laundering. Oglesby was at the heart of a scheme greased with the help of Eugene Mullins, Stroger’s childhood friend and onetime media spokesman. Mullins was sentenced to four years in prison.
Back in 2010, Preckwinkle easily unseated Stroger in the primary, taking 49 percent of the vote to Stroger’s 13.6 percent.
The election was a struggle for Stroger in a campaign season dominated by racial politics, tax talk and promises to end corruption.
Stroger’s problems dated to how he got the job in 2006: Political insiders put him on the ballot after his father, who had held office since 1994 and faced allegations of politically connected hiring, suffered a stroke.
The biggest furor followed a sales tax increase, something Stroger insisted was vital to preserving essential services like hospital funding. But other candidates, including Preckwinkle, vowed to repeal it.
“This is a bump in the road,” Stroger said in his concession speech. “Life goes on.”