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Preckwinkle’s reasons don’t add up

Wednesday, Sep 26, 2012

* Carol Marin interviewed Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle about her refusal to endorse Lance Tyson, the opponent of indicted former state Rep. Derrick Smith

You might assume that because Preckwinkle has earned a reputation for reforming government that she would be in Tyson’s corner. Especially since she never endorsed Smith and regards him as “incompetent at best, a crook at worst.”

But no. She is not.

“I would tell you, I’ve spent the last two years of my life trying to clean up after Todd Stroger,” said the president, referring to her ill-fated, much criticized predecessor.

Tyson was Stroger’s first chief of staff. A former lobbyist for the Daley administration, Tyson took on the job in a muscular way. Or as former county Commissioner Mike Quigley expressed it to the Tribune, in the manner of “If you’re not with us, you’re against us.”

But after 18 months of playing defense, Tyson must have known Stroger’s brand of governance was indefensible. He left for private practice. But he kept giving and raising cash for many Democratic politicians, including Preckwinkle, as recently as April of this year.

But when Tyson asked for Preckwinkle’s endorsement this summer, she declined.

“There is no way for Lance to disassociate himself from the past I inherited,” she told me. “We’re in terrible budget shape, they didn’t do any long-range planning, and given how little attention Todd gave, I would guess Lance was running it.”

Tyson disputes that. And he calls Preckwinkle’s rejection “stunning,” arguing that she should want “to support an attorney” in a race against someone “who needs an attorney.”

* Eric Zorn also interviewed Preckwinkle about the situation and came to this conclusion…

First, Tyson does try to dissociate himself somewhat from Stroger, who all but inherited the seat from his father, John. Tyson told me he tried to keep Stroger focused on battling the tough financial challenges the county faced, and pointed out that he gave up in frustration less than halfway through Stroger’s term.

Second, whatever Todd-stink still lingers on Tyson is mild compared to the foul cloud in the West Side legislative district that envelops his opponent, Derrick Smith.

I agree fully. Preckwinkle is making a serious mistake here. Tyson tried to do right in that office. He took the job thinking he could help. Some folks, myself included, thought Tyson would keep Todd Stroger in check. But Stroger was beyond help. And Preckwinkle ought to be ashamed of herself here.

And the same goes for Speaker Madigan, who is also refusing to endorse in this race. He presided over Smith’s ouster, voted for that ouster, and now won’t work to prevent Smith from returning to the House?

Madigan’s operation is spending tons of dollars blasting away at Republicans over minor issues, or even over issues that have no relation to state government (Medicare and Social Security). But he has no cash to keep Derrick Smith from coming back to the House? Really?

- Posted by Rich Miller        


31 Comments
  1. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Wednesday, Sep 26, 12 @ 3:47 pm:

    If Tyson can’t beat Todd Smith with Jesse White’s help, I’m not sure Preckwinkle can help.

    And strategically, I don’t know why Madigan would
    divert resources away from defending targeted incumbents
    to oust Smith. The feds are gonna either remove or vindicate him.


  2. - Tony - Wednesday, Sep 26, 12 @ 3:51 pm:

    Well put, Rich.

    Anyone who was involved in county government at the time knows that Tyson was one of the few good guys in Stroger’s operation. Todd didn’t listen to him and instead relied on the counsel of his cousin, Donna Dunnings, and now-under-indictment pal/spokesman Gene Mullins. Tyson got out when he saw which way the ship was heading.

    Preckwinkle comes across as petty and vindictive…get over yourself already, Toni!

    I don’t get Madigan’s angle on this…if Smith is sworn-in this January it’s going to be hugely humiliating for the House Dems.


  3. - Vasyl Markus - Wednesday, Sep 26, 12 @ 3:59 pm:

    Chiming in as a resident of the district.

    I have heard that Lance Tyson was a bit aggressive as Todd Stroger’s CoS. But the choice here is between a guy caught on tape talking about splitting up a $7000 bribe and Tyson who, even if he rubbed people the wrong way, seems to know enough to be a state rep.

    Preckwinkle is making a huge mistake here, tarnishing her image as a reformer and looking petty. Madigan may have his own reasons to stay out; after all, Smith is a former member of the caucus.

    But regardless of Preckwinkle and Madigan, I find it infuriating that Tyson has not run any sort of campaign at all, at least in my part of the district. 40-or-so days out in the primary, I was being called almost every other day by Swiss, there were candidate appearances by both Swiss and Smith, there was mail from both candidates, and signs (which don’t vote, but still) were appearing in my neighborhood. Nothing so far.

    The lack of campaigning can be directly attributed to the candidates. Smith has a reason to lay low; but I can’t imagine why Tyson is laying low.


  4. - Bill - Wednesday, Sep 26, 12 @ 4:04 pm:

    Campaigning is too much like work.


  5. - James - Wednesday, Sep 26, 12 @ 4:11 pm:

    Toni Preckwinkle is the first politician in 25 years to reconstruct Harold Washington’s winning coalition of liberal whites, Hispanics and blacks.

    She has a tough job, but she is a tough woman and is up to the task.

    She has earned the right to endorse whomever she wants to endorse, and to sit out other races.

    She need not be ashamed or feel compelled to apologize to journalists about her failing to weigh in on every race where her endorsement might be sought.


  6. - OneMan - Wednesday, Sep 26, 12 @ 4:25 pm:

    Toni, I think you misspelled your name as James…


  7. - wordslinger - Wednesday, Sep 26, 12 @ 4:28 pm:

    I guess they figure he can’t be beat.


  8. - Glass half full - Wednesday, Sep 26, 12 @ 4:35 pm:

    Tyson didn’t try to line his pockets in his 2 years, Smith did and got caught….that’s enough for me.

    Tyson’s campaign should ramp up with Maze Jackson recently signing on as campaign manager.


  9. - 47th Ward - Wednesday, Sep 26, 12 @ 4:36 pm:

    Why is this Preckwinkle’s problem to solve? Did Carol Marin and Eric Zorn ask Jesse White what he and his organization are doing about Derrick Smith? If not, why not? This is Jesse’s mess to clean up, not Toni’s, or even Madigan’s.

    If Smith gets re-elected, it’s on Jesse White.


  10. - Jack - Wednesday, Sep 26, 12 @ 4:42 pm:

    I don’t get the criticism. It’s not like she is endorsing Smith, she’s just declining to endorse a guy who was a key member of an Administartion that sucked wind. Deal with it.


  11. - sal-says - Wednesday, Sep 26, 12 @ 4:46 pm:

    A recent quote pretty much says it all.

    A Rich Miller of CapitolFax quote: “This is Illinois, people. Everything’s political.” And, maybe petty.

    And I guess, ‘we ain’t ready for no stinkin’ reform.’ fits as well.


  12. - Tom Joad - Wednesday, Sep 26, 12 @ 5:01 pm:

    Preckwinkle is and has always been a phony. I met her when she was alderman. She acted like she was royalty and should be treated as such. Now the County Board chairmanship has really gone to her head. I am not suprised by her attitude at all.


  13. - amalia - Wednesday, Sep 26, 12 @ 5:05 pm:

    oh the hilarity! yes, it would seem that she would endorse a “reformer.” actually it would be endorsing the lesser of two different kinds of problem. Lance not only worked for Todd but was very close to him. don’t confuse affable with high minded.

    but Toni’s bigger issue is that she has played the game before. Claypool vs. Berrios. it was not just a matter of Dem. vs. Independent. any pol can play the game and reap the benefits, and the consequences. she has turned regular Dem faster than Quinn.


  14. - Liandro - Wednesday, Sep 26, 12 @ 5:09 pm:

    I think Wordslinger has it right. The whole thing is embarrassing, top to bottom, but I’d be lying if I said it was surprising.


  15. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Wednesday, Sep 26, 12 @ 6:11 pm:

    Bill and Wordslinger make good points.

    Although I’m not so sure its that Smith CAN’T be beat, only that it’ll take a whole lot of work to beat him. And the embarrassment of going all in and coming up short is something to avoid if at all possible.

    That said, politics like Nature abhors a vacuum, and I’m sure someone will step in to help Lance out.

    But as Bill and Vasyl point out, he can’t wait around like a damsel in distress to be rescued. He should be able to win this one on his own, really.


  16. - Skeptic Tank - Wednesday, Sep 26, 12 @ 7:36 pm:

    Tyson was Chief of Staff for Stroger for 18 months. No way he didn’t at least know of, if not help enable, some questionable Stroger behavior. I don’t blame Preckwinkle at all for staying neutral in this race.


  17. - Anonymous45 - Wednesday, Sep 26, 12 @ 7:58 pm:

    She is one of da boyz in da organization now.

    She can throw her weight around County, but has to be a team player at election time.


  18. - Steve Bartin - Wednesday, Sep 26, 12 @ 8:04 pm:

    Madigan and Preckwinkle know that voters , in Illinois, don’t care one way or the other about Mr. Smith. Madigan and Preckwinkle know they will never be held accountable on whether they are for or against Smith directly or indirectly. Rich Miller is one of the few people willing to bring all this stuff up but…. in Illinois there’s not much traction on something like this.


  19. - walkinfool - Wednesday, Sep 26, 12 @ 8:58 pm:

    Preckwinkle can and is justified in staying out of this race, if she finds both candidates objectionable. No one is obligated to endorse any one, especially not as a County office holder about a state level race.

    On the other hand, as Speaker, and as head of the state Dem party, Madigan should take a firm stand, has already supported Smith’s ouster, and should put his money where his mouth is.


  20. - truthteller - Wednesday, Sep 26, 12 @ 9:01 pm:

    I’m not a big fan of Preckwinkle, but she is right about this one. Tyson had a big hand in running the County. He did a terrible job.There are millions of citizens who are unindicted. That doesn’t qualify them for the legislature..If Tyson can’t sell himself to the voters in the district, what does that say about him?


  21. - cookcountytruth - Wednesday, Sep 26, 12 @ 9:19 pm:

    Cook County under Todd Stroger may have been a disaster politically, but the government was fiscally sound, with four balanced budgets. The reality is President Stroger is a fall guy, media target. Cook County was ran by Madigan and Daley NOT Stroger from day one. Thats where Lance came from. If the Stroger administration STILL gets the blame, why does Joe Fratto,(Strogers Chief of Staff), secretly left while Oglesby drama was heating up. Laura Lechowicz,work for Preckwinkle, Letty Close is still is lobbyist and hundreds of other political hacks are still working at the county? Stroger’s Cheif of Staff, Deputy Cheif (Pam Munizzi), CFO, Buget Directors, Comptroller,Finance Chairman Daley, were all from the Daley side but you would think one person (Stroger) was responisble. What did they do, or not do to ear the highest salaries in the County? Why arent THEY held accountable to the taxpayers by the media as well…


  22. - cookcountytruth - Wednesday, Sep 26, 12 @ 9:32 pm:

    Toni Prexkwinkle play the Stroger angle for 2 years now. SHe caused, NOT Stroger, the current Cook County Budget deficit. Her repeal of the sales Yax is the direct revenue loss that makes up the deficit. Shouldnt she wait??, stablize the finances, then downsize the operations…Politics over good policy, ans whats funnier is everone agrees that it makes sense!!!!Only in Illinois


  23. - Prince Tuesday - Wednesday, Sep 26, 12 @ 9:59 pm:

    Just saying that Lance is no Christian Mitchell who got all that experience cleaning up Cook County.


  24. - amalia - Wednesday, Sep 26, 12 @ 10:21 pm:

    cookcountytruth has things wrong in that post. and Lance goes way back with Stroger.


  25. - Realist - Wednesday, Sep 26, 12 @ 10:48 pm:

    Maybe Madigan jumped the gun in kicking Smith out with just a few days of veto session & Jan. 2013 left. Could a waited & gone after him if he got reelected. Unlikely he’d win another D primary if he got kicked out after being elected in Nov. 2012.


  26. - Robert the Bruce - Thursday, Sep 27, 12 @ 8:51 am:

    Preckwinkle needs to pick her spots - if there was a true reformer running, rather than Stroger’s Chief of Staff, I bet she would have endorsed. Not sure how much sway she has in the district anyway.


  27. - Siriusly - Thursday, Sep 27, 12 @ 10:21 am:

    I agree it is strange with Preckwinkle. But I can think of at least 20 reasons why Madigan should want nothing to do with this race.

    47 is right - this is all on Jesse White.


  28. - cookcountytruth - Thursday, Sep 27, 12 @ 11:41 am:

    @amalia..What is incorrect? Lance knew Todd for years prior to his appointment..that is correct.


  29. - cookcountytruth - Thursday, Sep 27, 12 @ 11:55 am:

    @prince I hope that comment about Chrisyian Mitchell is a joke…He is just one of Preckwinkle operatives who got a $149,000.00 no bid contract to ensure the Commissionors were on board with repealing the sales tax, EVEN THOUGH they all were for it…Gimme a break!!! Where is the outrage??? But is OK for HER to do it.


  30. - Brendan - Thursday, Sep 27, 12 @ 3:21 pm:

    Madigan’s funds are best spent in a district that would either protect or expand his majority.

    Expending finite campaign resources to impact a seat that is going to remain on his side of the aisle no matter which candidate wins.

    Plus, most voters either don’t know or don’t care that Smith is under indictment and been expelled from the House and plan to vote for him.

    He can simply expel Smith a second time and have the committeemen choose a replacement to fill out the remainder of the new term.

    So yeah, why waste the money?


  31. - Rich Miller - Thursday, Sep 27, 12 @ 3:23 pm:

    ===He can simply expel Smith a second time===

    He’ll need a reason. What do you suggest? Picking his feet in Poughkeepsie?


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