The growing likelihood that Cook County Board President John Stroger will retire from office rather than run for reelection as the Democratic nominee is drawing increased attention from a number of local elected political officials. The 76-year old Stroger suffered a serious stroke less than a week before last March’s primary, and continues to recover in the Chicago Rehabilitation Institute.
While there was some concern about the secretive nature of those close to Stroger regarding his medical condition since the stroke, things heated up quickly after Stroger’s son Todd, Chicago’s 8th Ward Alderman, recently stated that he’d like to take his father’s place. A number of African American aldermen quickly lined up to announce their support.
But other officials, both black and white, say Stroger’s 43-year-old son, who has been an alderman since 2001, doesn’t possess the political heft or clout to take his dad’s place. Recently a number of elected officials have contacted 7th District U.S. Congressman Danny K. Davis to urge him to consider taking Stroger’s place on the November ballot.
Davis, who has said he isn’t seeking a new job, and has said it’s his preference that Stroger recover enough to stand for election, nonetheless left the door open. While some are already publicly supporting a Davis candidacy, two local politicians say it’s too early to make any definitive statements.
“I would agree with Congressman Davis that it’s premature to act on a vacancy that does not exist,” State Senator Don Harmon said Friday. Harmon, who also serves as Oak Park Township Committeeman, is one of the 30 Democratic suburban committeemen who would join Chicago’s 50 ward committeemen in choosing Stroger’s replacement should the ailing board president opt to resign.
Still, Harmon praised Davis’s character and qualifications, saying, “He would be a wonderful president of the county board.” State Rep. Karen Yarbrough (D-7), who is Proviso Township’s newly elected Committeeman, shared that assessment, saying Friday that she believed Davis is “uniquely qualified” to serve as County Board President.
“He’d be a good candidate. He knows his way around,” she said.
Davis, who represents most of Forest Park, is comfortable in his role in Congress, where he has developed seniority over five terms. Besides seats on three House Committees, including Education and the Workforce, Government Reform and Small Business, he is the ranking minority member on the Federal Workforce and Agency Organization Subcommittee.
However, before going to Congress in 1997, Davis served with Stroger for six years as a county commissioner from 1990 to 1996, after 11 years on the Chicago City Council. A former teacher, Davis has also dealt extensively with haelthcare issuse, a primary focus of county government. He has served as the director of training at the Martin L. King Neighborhood Health Center, and as executive director of the Westside Health Center before entering politics.
Yarbrough said she spoke with Davis Thursday evening, and said she believes he could be swayed if there is adequate support.
“He told me he is interested,” she said.
Any move by Davis would set off a genuine game of full contact political musical chairs.
“He did indicate to me, if in fact this is real, then his seat is in play,” Yarbrough said. “He mentioned that he’s gotten some calls.
Whatever any one else thinks or wants, Yarbrough said, nothing can go forward until Stroger makes a decision.
“It all depends on President Stroger and what he wants to see happen,” she said, adding “We’re going to see in fairly short order.”