Toni Preckwinkle one on one: Why she lost the election

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Toni Preckwinkle has had two weeks to reflect on her stunning election night defeat to Lori Lightfoot. Wednesday she was finally ready to talk about it, sitting down with ABC7 for a television exclusive.

Preckwinkle is placing the blame not at the feet of Alderman Ed Burke, not on her negative ads, but instead on the one thing she tried to campaign on: her political career and experience.

"You know I think that this was a tough campaign for people who were incumbents, this was a tough time in our political cycle for people who are incumbents," Preckwinkle said. "I'm very proud of my public career, but in this environment having a 2 1/2 decade career of public service cuts both ways."

Preckwinkle was asked what she thought the election turned on. She avoided directly answering the question, only saying she was proud of the campaign she ran and the focus on working families. Did she anticipate losing 74% to 26%?

"No of course not. I think it's really important though to focus on what I learned from the campaign and that is how much people care about their own neighborhoods and their communities," Preckwinkle said.

As for what role the FBI raid on Alderman Burke's office and the subsequent charges against him play in her defeat?

"You know as a candidate I think I endured more scrutiny than anyone else in the race and surely more scrutiny then alderman Burke," Preckwinkle said, adding it's hard to know what role Burke's case played.
Preckwinkle also downplayed the negative tone of her campaign and her television ads.

"You know I think there were, there were negative ads by Mayor Lightfoot and by myself that I think is an inevitable part of our political process," Preckwinkle said.

She did not think there was anything she could have done to win the race.

"No, you know I am proud of the campaign we ran and as I said I'm very grateful for the supporters and volunteers and staff for their good work," Preckwinkle said.

Interestingly enough, Preckwinkle said she did not do an election post mortem to look at what she might have done differently. She just decided to move on.

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Toni Preckwinkle sat down with ABC7's Craig Wall for a television exclusive interview.

Following the election Preckwinkle is staying on as the head of the Cook County Democratic Party, and she's confident she can still do the job.

"You know, I've been a proponent of inclusion and diversity in the party ever since I was elected committeeman in 1992, and I'll continue that focus going forward," she said.

After promising she would return $116,000 from a fundraiser held for her at Alderman Burke's home, Preckwinke's recently filed campaign report only shows a portion has been refunded; $72,000 is still outstanding.

"Some people I think have chosen not to cash the checks, and we'll try to get back to them and see what the story is," Preckwinkle said.

As for her agenda as County Board President, she laid out four priorities.

"The immediate concern is our census, you know there are billions of dollars at stake in the census and congressional seats and the county has allocated $2 million for this year for outreach," she said.

Preckwinkle also wants to focus on sustainable public health care, continuing criminal justice reform, and economic development, especially in the south suburbs.

She said it's unlikely she'll run for mayor again, but possibly for county board president.

"I've got four years ahead of us," she laughed. "I know what's ahead of me in terms of the next four years, got a good handle on the job. Beyond that, I can't tell you."
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