Stroger responds after debate absence

November 16, 2009 (CHICAGO) After initially saying he was not actually confirmed to attend the debate, Stroger's campaign said Monday they knew of the debate, and pulled out after a Sun-Times report appeared in the paper Sunday alleging a conspiracy in the board race.

The verbatim statement sent to ABC7 reads:

"On yesterday the campaign of President Todd H. Stroger was told of the Chicago Sun Time's investigation involving an alleged conspiracy involving Clerk of the Circuit Court Dorothy Brown and Commissioner Terry O'Brien, against President Stroger. Due to the strong nature of the allegations now detailed on today's front page of the Chicago Sun Times, it was then decided that the President not attend the 43rd Ward forum held on yesterday.

"However the President did attend a candidate's forum on Saturday in Oak Park. Once again, it is increasingly clear that the Brown campaign has no credible interest in this election. Coupled with allowing state funded earn fare workers to gather her petitions, Ms. Brown's credibility in this race, as was the case in her 2007 mayoral run, continues to draw questions."

Stroger's absence became the focus of the Sunday debate at DePaul University.

'Where was Todd?' was the question after Stroger, who is running for re-election, failed to show up at a candidate forum sponsored by his political party.

"I think Mr. Stroger did himself an injustice by not appearing," said Cook County resident Alvin Forbes.

The other three candidates running for the top county spots did show up for the afternoon discussion, hosted by the 43rd Ward Democrats, and wasted no time criticizing Stroger for his absence.

"I think it's a blatant disrespect to the citizens of Cook County, especially the 43rd Ward Democrats, " said Dorothy Brown, Clerk of the Circuit Court.

"He's not in tune. He's not interested in what you're saying or what you want to say," Terrence O'Brien, president of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District. (

"I think President Stroger has fallen down on that part of his responsibility," 4th Ward Ald. Toni Preckwinkle said. "He has to make his case to the people."

The Democratic committeeman for the Ward says Stroger's appearance at 1 p.m. Sunday was confirmed, but event organizers say when they questioned why Stroger was a no show, his campaign said he never confirmed he would attend.

Andy Shaw, executive director of the Better Government Association, moderated the forum.

"I find it an insult to this audience and the 43rd Ward to say you are coming to a debate and then not show up," Shaw said.

The forum's focus eventually turned to campaign issues. All the candidates in attendance said they support a repeal of a portion of the latest Cook County sales tax increase, which made it the highest in the nation. The trio committed to fixing the county's ailing health care system.

"It may have reinforced any opinion I had, but I wanted to see everybody together," resident Luigi Mumford said.

The Cook County Board was set to hold a special meeting Monday to consider another proposal to roll back a portion of the Cook County sales tax, but it has been postponed.

Stroger has vetoed previous attempts, but new legislation now means a smaller majority of the board is needed to override his veto.

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