Opting for a relatively sure thing rather than a risky bid for local political power, U.S. Rep. Danny Davis announced Monday he would seek re-election rather than run for president of the Cook County Board.
Davis made the announcement during a news conference at his local congressional office on Chicago's West Side. He said that because of the number of candidates vying for the same constituency in the race - three other black candidates have filed petitions, including incumbent President Todd Stroger - it made more sense for him to try to stay in Congress.
Jokingly citing a letter he'd recently received from a Texas inmate lauding his work on law-enforcement legislation, Davis said, "I've got some reason to come back and get to work."
In that, he was opting for a relatively certain re-election campaign as a Democratic congressman, even with candidates lined up in hopes of replacing him, instead of entering a risky five-person race in February's Democratic primary for Cook board president. Davis had said that he might have more impact as the head executive at the county level than as a single congressman in the U.S. legislative branch, and that polls had him out in front. Yet the race would have been uncertain compared with a run for re-election as an incumbent congressman.
"I always said if there were four individuals running for the same political office, then it would not be the best climate in which to run," Davis said. "I met with Todd Stroger yesterday, and he verified to me that he would seek another term. That means four people would be running for the office, so I am staying true to my word."
Stroger remains in the Democratic primary for County Board president, as does Chicago Alderman Toni Preckwinkle, Clerk of the Circuit Court Dorothy Brown and Metropolitan Water Reclamation District President Terrence O'Brien.
Davis said he would be supporting one of those candidates but would not make a formal endorsement at this time.
Preckwinkle called Davis' decision "a real boon to our campaign."
"As an independent, progressive Democrat, Congressman Davis and I appeal to some of the same constituencies and some of the same funders," she said. "So this will be a real opportunity for me to go back to those folks and ask for their help."
Stroger, too, cheered Davis' decision, as it removed a top contender, and the congressman figures to return to the powerful House Ways and Means Committee. "I'm excited about continuing our partnership in fighting for our health care system in Cook County," Stroger said.
Chicago minister Clay Evans, head of the Concerned Clergy for a Better Chicagoland, which has endorsed Stroger, also applauded the move, adding, "We are hopeful that the remaining candidates in the race for Cook County Board president will maintain their political power by following the congressman's lead and seeking re-election in their respective offices."
In other races, Andrea Raila of Chicago dropped her bid to become county assessor, facing a costly challenge battle over her petitions filed by slated Democratic candidate and Cook County Democratic Party Chairman Joseph Berrios. Assessor candidates Robert Shaw of South Holland and Gene Staples of River Forest also found their petitions formally challenged Monday.
County Clerk David Orr determined ballot order in contested races through lotteries conducted Monday. Stroger already obtained the last ballot slot by filing last at the deadline. Preckwinkle got the top slot in the Democratic president's race, followed by O'Brien and Brown. Shaw got the top spot over Berrios in the assessor's race, pending the challenge. On the Republican side, slated candidate Roger Keats got the top slot in the president's race over John Garrido.