For the county board president hopefuls, it was the biggest night of the campaign so far. The debate--aired live on the Internet and cable TV--was major exposure for the candidates together. As expected, much of what they said focused on whether to repeal the remaining half cent increase in the Cook County sales tax.
At the end of the half hour session, circuit clerk Dorothy Brown was first to declared victory.
"I feel that I won the debate. I feel that the choice is clear," said Brown.
But the others--including water reclamation board president Terrence O'Brien--took exception.
"Anybody can say that they won. But I think it's gonna be left up to the voters on February 2nd to see who's actually the winner," said O'Brien.
Incumbent president Todd Stroger said because of the sales tax the county is in better financial shape than the city and state governments and attacked Clerk Brown's rollback plan, alleging that it's her style to replace the lost sales tax revenues with new fees.
"You listen to the clerk, she'll admit she's raised the fees. She's raised fees as high as you can get," said Stroger.
O'Brien bragged that his campaign is surging with the only broadcast television ad and a new wave of support.
"We've just picked up endorsements from 40 mayors throughout the suburban area, besides Congressman Lipinski and the FOP," said O'Brien.
But in her post-debate news conference, Preckwinkle attacked O'Brien's record on the environment and the water reclamation boss's part-ownership in an engineering consulting firm called K-Plus.
"And K-Plus represents some of the biggest polluters in the State," said Preckwinkle.
The candidates expect to have several more debates between now and February 2nd but none, they say, with the potential viewership of Thursday's event.