Republican candidates for board president debate

January 21, 2010 1:25:45 PM PST
The two Republican candidates for Cook County board president, a veteran legislator and a police lieutenant, debated Wednesday night at ABC7."What I appreciate the most is the exposure. Part of what lets the Democrats get away with the stuff they get away with is that nobody knows there's an alternative," said Roger Keats.

Recent back surgery would not keep Roger Keats from an opportunity to let Cook County voters know there is a Republican primary for Cook County board president.

Equally enthusiastic was Keats' opponent, Attorney John Garrido, a lieutenant in the Chicago Police Department.

"We need some fresh blood, a candidate who is ready and willing to stand up and fight against the Chicago machin, and I am that candidate," said Garrido.

Businessman Keats was a member of the Illinois House, and then, the Senate from 1978 to 1994, a campaign issue for Garrido.

"A wealthy, retired career politician from Wilmette is just not the candiate I am," Garrido said.

"I always chuckle when John says 'career politician.' I haven't run for office in 18 years," said Keats.

A 19-year veteran who earned a law degree during his police career, Garrido demanded to know why Keats took a campaign donation from Warren Batts, the chairman of the county's health and hospital system governing board.

"Isn't that more of the same?" Garrido said.

"Warren Batts is a distinguished man, and for you to question the integrity of Warren Batts, I am offended," Keats said.

Democrats have controlled the county board presidency since 1968. Their four 2010 contenders, including President Todd Stroger, are locked in a close race.

Keats and Garrido left no doubt about the Democrat they'd love to run against.

"Todd Stroger, of course. I'm telling anybody who's a Democrat who cannot pull a Republican ballot, please vote for Todd Stroger," said Garrido.

Keats is endorsed by the Cook County Republican Party. Garrido was endorsed by Chicago's Fraternal Order of Police. Both men want a shot at beating the Democrats in November. It would be a monumental upset.