Black ministers back Stroger as Cook Co. president

October 14, 2009 4:38:10 AM PDT
A group of African-American religious leaders is backing Cook County Board President Todd Stroger for re-election.They want the other three African-American candidates in the race to drop out and keep their current political positions.

Despite his reported 10 percent approval rating, President Stroger announced he is running for reelection, and in the crowded Cook County Board president's race, his supporters held what has been the most crowded and spirited campaign rally to date.

"It is the consensus of this house...that President Todd Stroger should receive our support," Bishop Cody Marshall said.

Stroger's triumphant entrance happened near the end of the carefully orchestrated event at Quinn Chapel, the city's oldest African-American church.

"I say to you here today, we stand here boldly, and we stand here fearless to say...You da man!!!" Reverend JoAnn Long said.

The ministers noted that unlike the city and state governments, Cook County under Stroger has a balanced budget. The public health system -- now under independent governance -- cut hundreds of jobs without affecting service, and again unlike the city and state, there have been no federal indictments in county government, which the president says is in good shape.

"So we have to stand together and that's why I'm running, because I understand it," Stroger said to applause.

Four other candidates in the race include Congressman Danny Davis, 4th Ward Chicago Alderman Toni Preckwinkle, Circuit Clerk Dorothy Brown and Water Reclamation Board Chairman Terrence O'Brien. They never addressed the minister's group.

"I just think that there should have been a different process with regards to making that endorsement," O'Brien said.

The ministers want the other African-American candidates to withdraw.

"Everyone should think about what's in the best interest of their constituent base, and we're just simply asking everyone to do that," Leonard Muhammad said.

Clerk Brown's campaign issued a statement saying she won't quit, and "will continue to tell voters about Dorothy Brown's proven track record."

Congressman Davis cites his strong poll numbers and Stroger's weak approval ratings.

"I think there have been some political operatives who may have infiltrated the minister's group," Davis said.

While admitting she wanted the endorsement, Preckwinkle said no African-American candidate should depend solely on the black vote.

"For a candidate to be successful, they have to appeal across the county to a variety of constituents and I think I'm the candidate in the best position to do that," Preckwinkle said.

For the time being, the ministers have not compelled any of the African-American candidates to leave the race. Congressman Davis says he'll make his decision, if he must, at the end of the filing period on November 9th.

Davis has said repeatedly he will not run in a race against three other African American candidates. He has an option to run again for congress.


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