The candidates are competing to run a county government more associated with cronyism than competence.
"If you believe we have a budget deficit, I have a bridge in Brooklyn to sell you," said Roger Keats (R), Cook Co. board president candidate.
"I'm the that guy nobody sent," said Tom Tresser (G), Cook Co. board president candidate
"Unfortunately, over the last four years people have gotten the impression that Cook County government is just a hopeless swamp. Our goal is to go in and drain the swamp and clean it up," said Ald. Toni Preckwinkle (D, Cook Co. board president candidate.
Preckwinkle earned a reputation as an intelligent and, at times, independent Alderman on the Chicago City Council. The former teacher says 80 percent of the county's expenses go toward its 23,000 thousand employees. She promises an in-depth audit to determine who's needed and who's not. For starters, she thinks cuts can be made to the criminal justice system and hopes to keep divert some people out of the jail and in to treatment and training programs.
Preckwinkle is supported with money and manpower by unions and supported Todd Stroger's elevation to the county board.
"Like you I'm sure, occasionally I support people who don't turn out as well as you hope and expect," said Preckwinkle.
Former state senator Roger Keats is a Republican from the North Shore. If elected, he promises to freeze pay and hiring and require all county employees to use the county-run health care system, which he vows to expand with more neighborhood clinics.
"We are so over-staffed we could open a dozen new clinics without hiring one new person," said Keats.
Green Party candidate Tom Tresser's claim to fame is his battle against Chicago's Olympic bid. The grassroots group he helped to found became a thorn in the side of Chicago's Olympic organizers.
"If people want real change in government, the change has to start with them," said Tresser.
The one thing all three candidates agree on: Without reductions to the payroll, pensions and other perks county employees have long enjoyed. Cook County won't be able to get out from under the weight of growing budget deficit.