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Former Ald. Bob Fioretti challenging Toni Preckwinkle

Bob Fioretti, a former Chicago alderman, is challenging Toni Preckwinkle in the race for Cook Bounty Board President, but his other recent campaigns have been less than successful. | Sun-Times file photo

Former Chicago Ald. Bob Fioretti wants Toni Preckwinkle’s job.

And Fioretti made it clear Monday as he officially announced his candidacy that he plans to use Preckwinkle’s massively unpopular tax increases as a cudgel.

In Cook County, “a penny earned is not a penny saved, it is a penny taxed,” Fioretti said in reference to Preckwinkle’s much-despised penny-an-ounce sweetened beverage tax that was repealed last month.

Fioretti, 63, announced his candidacy Monday morning standing in front of two helicopters inside a hangar at the Lansing Municipal Airport, which he noted has been hit hard by county tax policies.

Spurring economic growth, not raising taxes, he said, would bring more money into county coffers. But he was short on specifics.

Asked if he planned to avoid making any new tax increases if elected, Fioretti said: “I think we’re going to have to look at everything.”

Working with the Cook County assessor to establish fair property taxes and stemming the tax policies that incentivize Cook County residents to spend money in other Illinois counties and Indiana would be priorities, he said.

In response, Preckwinkle’s political director Scott Kastrup issued a statement that read, in part:

“President Preckwinkle is focused on navigating the county through tough economic circumstances and leading on behalf of the people of Cook County . . . (she) has broad support across the county and is in a strong position to win re-election in March.”

Addressing questions about his health, Fioretti said the throat cancer that once threatened his life has been in remission for eight years and he feels great.

“I would not be doing this if I was not healthy,” he said, noting that he exercises daily.

News of Fioretti’s challenge is not a surprise.

A political committee entitled “Bob for Cook County” was created in October to support the Democrat’s run for county president. And Fioretti’s name and signature appeared on an amendment to the committee’s forms earlier this month.

The primary election for Cook County president will be held March 20, 2018. Signatures are due Dec. 4 for candidates who want to appear on the primary ballot.

Fioretti served as 2nd Ward alderman for two terms beginning in 2007. But when the ward maps were redrawn in 2012 by the Chicago City Council, the new boundaries left Fioretti’s home address in the West Loop outside the ward he represented.

Fioretti called the remap a farce intended to keep him out of office.

In 2015, Fioretti mounted an unsuccessful bid to unseat Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who he occasional butted heads with on the City Council
floor.

In 2016, he ran an unsuccessful campaign for a seat in the Illinois Senate.

On Monday, Fioretti marketed himself as the “independent voice of reason.”

Former mayoral candidate and businessman Willie Wilson introduced Fioretti on Monday as the candidate who will “listen to the people when it comes to taxes and public safety.”

Fioretti faces an uphill fundraising battle.

Preckwinkle has more than $400,000 in her war chest and no debts or obligations.

Fioretti has just under $20,000 in campaign coffers.

His debts and obligations total more than $170,000, but Fioretti said that sum is mostly comprised of money he loaned to his previous campaigns.

He said on Monday that he had significant commitments from donors that he couldn’t yet talk about. “I’m holding off on specifics,” he said.