Poll: Brown leads board president primary race

December 11, 2009 4:25:03 PM PST
Circuit Court Clerk Dorothy Brown has a commanding lead in the race for Cook County Board President, according to a new poll by the Chicago Tribune. The poll indicates Brown leads the incumbent, Todd Stroger, by a margin of more than two-to-one.

However, many Cook County voters are still undecided about who they favor. More than 500 people participated in the Chicago Tribue poll, which has a margin of error of 4.4 percentage points.

Poll results suggest race apparently is not playing a big factor in the campaign.

All of the candidates responded to the new poll numbers Friday. In addition to Brown and Stroger, Ald. Toni Preckwinkle and Water Reclamation Board Chairman Terrence O'Brien are also running for board president.

None of the candidates believe the voters have really focused on this race so far. They say they don't expect that to happen until sometime next month. So, they were viewing the survey cautiously Friday.

Incumbent Todd Stroger--who finished third-- wants voters to focus on those who commissioned the poll: the Chicago newspaper that Stroger says is on a crusade to destroy him politically.

"There is damage, but I don't think it is damage that can't be repaired. All people need to know is the truth," Stroger said.

The board president say he has learned to dismiss any Chicago Tribune headline with his name in it. He says the newspaper has been biased against him since he took office in late 2006.

"They ignore that we have a balanced budget. We spend the same amount of money we spent three years ago. I've worked to help 25,000 people change their mortgages. And we have our hospital system running," said Stroger.

The tribune poll of 502 likely primary voters listed Dorothy Brown as the front-runner with 29 percent. Fourth Ward Alderman Preckwinkle followed with 20 percent. Third and fourth respectively were Stroger at 14 percent and O'Brien bringing up the rear at 11 percent. Twenty-six percent of respondents said they were undecided.

"We're not going to rest on our laurels. We're pleased with this poll, but we're cautiously optimistic," Brown said.

At a mid-morning news conference, Brown also said the supports what she's been saying for months: that Cook County voters do not consider the race of a candidate anywhere near much as they used to.

"Because of Barack Obama's election, it shows us that people will vote across color lines," Brown said.

Preckwinkle ignored ministers' demands that she drop out of the race, and she now sees a chance to win, despite running against two other African-Americans.

"I'm the only one who had never run for county-wide office. So, name recognition is clearly an issue for me, and yet, I came in second, according to the polling results," said Preckwinkle. "I have always said that I'm in a Democratic primary, not an African-American primary. I think the person who wins is going to appeal to people across the county, and I think I can do that."

O'Brien, the only Caucasian candidate, had been projected by some observers as a possible favorite in the race against three African-American candidates. Earlier this year, African-American ministers called on three of the four black candidates to drop out of the race so that a block of votes by African-American residents would not be divided and make it possible for O'Brien to win the primary.

Like Stroger, he dismissed the Tribune poll, which he said he believes undercounted his voters.

"We've got our own poll here that we've commissioned, and we're in a statistical tie for second place," O'Brien said.

Chicago and Cook Cpunty racial politics were at their worst during the 1980s after the election of Harold Washington as the city's first black mayor. West Side Ald. Ed Smith won his first election running with Washington in 1983.

"I'm very happy to see that we are making some gains in Cook County, but we still have a long way to go because there are a plethora of things that still involve race," Smith said.

Despite his poor showing in the Tribune survey, Stroger says he still believes he can win. But, he claims that after three years of attacks by the regions largest newspaper, he has a lot to accomplish between now and February 2.

"Probably the hardest thing is to get the positive things that have happened in the county out in the world," Stroger said.

Friday afternoon, Stroger's campaign manager issued a statement questioning the polling company that conducted the survey for the Tribune. The statement said the poll was conducted by a "shady political insider" who had been heavily criticized in the past for bogus and inaccurate polling.


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