County Board President
The candidates on the ballot for tomorrow’s state primary are not a very inspiring bunch, but even if you don’t vote for anyone else, you absolutely must go and vote for Toni Preckwinkle for Cook County Board President. This is the position that Todd Stroger has been making a hilarious cesspool of corruption and incompetence ever since the machine foisted him on us - and the only thing new there is the incompetence. Stroger is running again, but the bigger threat is that Clerk of the County Circuit Court Dorothy Brown might win. She’s been in trouble lately for inviting her 2100 employees to “voluntarily” donate money to her in numerous ways, and if she wins we can expect a new round of corruption and nepotism. Preckwinkle, on the other hand, is fastidiously uncorrupt and strong enough to take on the County Board. She’s also the most progressive member of the City Council. She has the best handle on the issues: she’s the only candidate who wants to make permanent the independent body monitoring the County hospitals and her other main priority is to route nonviolent offenders away from County jails. This might be the one chance in our lifetime to end the machine stranglehold on County government. Don’t waste it!
Other candidates are disappointing, but the races are important. The Senate race is between banking heir Alexi Giannoulias and former Chicago Inspector General David Hoffman (Jacob Meister dropped out yesterday and Cheryle Jackson hasn’t run a serious campaign). I don’t want to vote for Hoffman because his policies aren’t very progressive, but I will because Giannoulias’s policies aren’t any better and because he probably can’t win the general election. Giannoulias’s ties to his failing family bank are going to wreck his candidacy - he’s exactly the kind of privileged, irresponsible person people can’t stand right now. Just as important, Giannoulias is one of those politicians who won’t take a stand that hasn’t been poll-tested. Hoffman’s policies aren’t great, but I can imagine him coming to the realization once he’s in the Senate that drastic changes are required and that he needs to be a leader for fundamental reform. It's not likely, but at least it's conceivable. I can’t imagine any such thing from Giannoulias.
For governor we have Pat Quinn or Dan Hynes. Quinn has been a big disappointment - he’s mishandled a number of important policies and just doesn’t seem very good at politics. But I’m still going to vote for him because, unlike Hynes, he’s been honest with us about the need to raise taxes to fund the catastrophic budget - already crippling the provision of vital social services across the state - which is now set to fall 1/5 short of funds next year. The real problem with state government is House Speaker Michael Madigan, who blocked a sensible, progressive tax increase last year and has refused to offer any other solution. If Hynes wins, leaving Quinn a lame duck for the next nine months, there’s no way the budget will get fixed. Quinn has good values, we can only hope he’ll figure out how to be a good politician too.
Arthur Turner is part of the state House leadership, which means he’s connected to Madigan, which speaks poorly of him. But he also has an independent progressive base in the West Side and having a Madigan ally facilitating communication between the governor and House speaker might actually help prevent a repeat of last year’s embarrassing legislative session.
The job of comptroller is mostly technical in nature, its real importance is giving a politician a statewide platform from which to run for higher office. David Miller seems to be the most progressive of the candidates, he’s connected to Jesse Jackson, Jr and was endorsed by the Progressive Action Project and SEIU.
Same goes for treasurer. I can’t tell if Robin Kelly is more progressive than Justin Oberman, but Oberman is clearly just casting about for an elected office of some kind, and Kelly has more experience.
Cook County Assessor
Joseph Berrios is the ultimate machine candidate, and he also has massive conflict of interest in holding this position. Robert Shaw is a joke (and pretty funny if you read some of Joravsky’s reporting on this race). Vote for Ray Figueroa.
If you live on the South Side, your commissioner is probably Jerry Butler, who is a solid machine incumbent. Vote for Monica Torres-Linares.
Water Reclamation District
I don’t know anything about these candidates, so here’s the Sierra Club’s endorsements: Todd Connor, Mariyana Spyropoulos, and Kari Steele.