Time for Stroger to bow out gracefully

Published: 9/15/2009 12:02 AM

Three years ago, Cook County Democratic leaders anointed Todd Stroger to take over the powerful county board presidency after his father, John Stroger, fell victim to a disabling stroke during the 2006 primary season.

Last week, county Democratic committeemen turned their back on the Stroger heir, preferring to endorse no one in the county board president's race rather than support him.

That kind of no-confidence vote is rare for the Democratic organization, which nearly always backs incumbent officeholders.

It's the latest indication that Stroger is in a race he can't win. Voters also have abandoned his candidacy, according to polls that put Stroger's approval rating as low as 10 percent, even lower than the 13 percent former Gov. Rod Blagojevich won in the weeks leading up to his December arrest.

It's not hard to see why.

Just look at Stroger's record: A wildly unpopular sales-tax increase just as the region was sinking into recession. A pattern of political hiring highlighted by his cousin and county Chief Financial Officer Donna Dunnings twice putting up bail for an ex-offender former busboy whom Stroger had promoted to a $61,000-a-year county job. A history of county contracts going to Stroger campaign donors, revealed in July by the Daily Herald and Better Government Association.

All in three years.

Stroger needs to heed the writing on the wall. He's a liability for his party and for Cook County residents.

It's time he pulls out of the race for county board president and clears the way for other candidates. The February Democratic primary race already has at least four other potential candidates: U.S. Rep. Danny Davis, Chicago Alderman Toni Preckwinkle, Metropolitan Water Reclamation District President Terrence O'Brien and Circuit Clerk Dorothy Brown. And there will be no shortage of Republican candidates as well.

We encourage all candidates to put particular effort into repairing a gaping rift between county government and the suburbs, fueled in part by Stroger's cavalier and at times condescending interaction with suburbanites.

Five months ago, frustrated voters in Barrington, Hanover and Palatine townships overwhelmingly supported secession from Cook County in a nonbinding protest vote that led Stroger to comment to a Daily Herald reporter, "If you want to take your ball and go home, then take your ball and go home. I'm not going to try and stop you."

It'll take time and effort for candidates to heal those wounds. But it's what we deserve from those seeking election to the county board presidency.

People in the suburbs are Cook County constituents. People in the suburbs are voters.

We welcome the candidates who recognize that.