Paul Vallas to run for Cook County Board

February 4, 2009 2:55:09 PM PST
Former Chicago Public Schools chief Paul Vallas is planning a return to Illinois to run for the presidency of the Cook County Board of Commissioners.To hear Vallas speak on Wednesday, he's more than just considering a run. Remember seven years ago he got more Cook County votes than any of his opponents in the Democratic primary for governor.

While he works out of state, Vallas is still a southwest suburban resident. And now he says he has some friends to back him up - in another political party.

Vallas confirmed his candidacy in morning phone calls from Louisiana where has worked the past two years trying to re-build the public school system in New Orleans.

"I think county government is broken," said Vallas.

Vallas who lost the 2002 Democratic gubernatorial primary to Rod Blagojevich says he'll switch to the Republican party to run for county board president. The Palos Hills resident says he is not only disillusioned with cook county democrats and "their royal families" but also because he wants to establish a two party system in Cook County.

"In Cook County you have one party that has dominated politics, it has dominated government for decades and you just don't have the type of viable two-party system that can ensure accountability," said Vallas.

At Wednesday's county board meeting where commissioners are still trying to resolve a budget deficit despite a sales tax increase last year. Much of the backroom talk was about Vallas.

"I think he brings a lot to the party. More importantly, he brings a lot to government. I think he would be a positive force," said Peter Sylvestri, (R) Cook County commissioner.

"This is a democrat county. It always will be a Democrat county. Paul Vallas is just out in the woods," said William Beavers, (D) Cook County commissioner.

Board president Todd Stroger who hasn't decided if he'll run for re-election took issue with the claim that county government is broken. Then he called the Vallas declaration just "noise."

"My focus is on county government, making sure it works well, and that I'm doing the job I'm supposed to do," said Todd Stroger, (R) Cook County Board president.

The city's 4th ward alderman Tony Preckwinkle already has said she'll run for board president while self-described reformer Forrest Claypool says he's undecided about trying a second time.

"I think what this says to the Democratic party is you better nominate a proven reformer," said Forrest Claypool, Cook County commissioner.

On the Republican side, Palatine State Senator Matt Murphy has been mentioned as a possible candidate and county commissioner Tony Peraica, who ran and lost in 2006, has not ruled out another try.

"I have not reached a determination today and I am keeping all options open," said Tony Peraica, (R) Cook County commissioner.

If there is a contested Republican primary next year it could attract so many suburban voters, and there could be an effect in the Democrat race.

Vallas says he erased all the debt left over from his 2002 run for governor and he appeared confident he could raise the money -- two to three million dollars -- to run countywide in 2010.


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