Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle will decide soon whether to embark on a run for Chicago mayor, setting aside previous plans to create an exploratory committee for a potential bid.
Scott Kastrup, Preckwinkle’s political director on her potential run for mayor, issued a statement Monday saying she would make a decision “shortly.”
“Chicagoans know that no one has worked more effectively than Toni Preckwinkle to strengthen access to affordable healthcare, confront gun violence as a public health crisis and reform our criminal justice system,” Kastrup said. “She’s been a public servant in this city for over 25 years. She has a unique understanding of the importance, responsibilities and hard work of the mayor’s office. She is giving serious consideration to running for mayor and will be making an announcement regarding her decision shortly.”
The Hyde Park Democrat is evaluating a run for mayor while she is on the ballot for a third term as the county’s chief executive. Preckwinkle, 71, defeated former Ald. Bob Fioretti in the March primary and is unopposed in the November general election.
Preckwinkle, who also is the Cook County Democratic Party chairwoman, plans to keep her position as Cook County Board president if she were to pursue a run for mayor, the Chicago Tribune previously reported.
Last week, Preckwinkle spent several days calling community leaders, union bosses and potential campaign donors, asking some of them to join or support an exploratory committee. That effort would have included launching a political fund, which would allow Preckwinkle to collect unlimited amounts of money toward a mayoral bid. Unlike in her County Board race, the state campaign contribution limits in the mayor’s race were lifted earlier this year after millionaire businessman Willie Wilson decided to self-fund his campaign.
Preckwinkle, however, did not announce the formation of the exploratory committee as expected, scrapping that move instead for Kastrup’s statement that she would make a decision soon. The change of plans signals a possibility that Preckwinkle will jump into the mayor’s race before she formally is re-elected to the County Board in November. Simply setting up an exploratory committee could have allowed her to delay the formal announcement while still fundraising toward a mayoral bid.
Getting into the race sooner rather than later would give Preckwinkle a head start against other potential rivals weighing whether to get in the race, including state Comptroller Susana Mendoza, who also is on the ballot this fall for that statewide office. Mendoza has said she is focused on that race but has not ruled out a run for mayor.
Preckwinkle and Mendoza both have aggressively called labor leaders and wealthy donors seeking backing for a mayoral bid, the Tribune has reported. For now, most of the labor unions have decided to stay on the sidelines as the field shakes out.
A former aide to Preckwinkle also inched toward a possible run Monday.
City Treasurer Kurt Summers announced he’s launching a website to “genuinely seek people’s opinions and aspirations for our city.”
“The future of this city should be determined by the many, not the few,” Summers said in a statement about the site, ourchicago.net. “The future should be determined by the people, not just the powerful.”
The site, paid for by Summers’ political campaign fund, prompts visitors to write what they think Chicago’s biggest strengths and challenges are, and the “qualities I want to see in the next mayor.”
But Summers, 38, has not officially jumped into the crowded field to succeed Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who announced last week he would not seek a third term.
Summers was Preckwinkle’s chief of staff before leaving in 2012 to take a job as an executive at investment firm GCM Grosvenor, which is run by Emanuel confidant Michael Sacks. Emanuel appointed Summers treasurer in October 2014, and Summers won the election for the seat a few months later.
Since then, Summers flirted with a campaign for governor. He alerted supporters to a possible run in March 2017 and held a fundraiser tied to that possibility but decided shortly thereafter not to get in the race.
Meanwhile, Cook County Clerk David Orr said Monday he’s decided not to run for mayor, saying he’s “looking forward to retirement from elected office” when his seventh term is complete at the end of the year. Orr, 74, said last week he was mulling an entry into the already crowded field.
The main candidates who have declared they are running for mayor so far include former Chicago police Superintendent Garry McCarthy, former Chicago Public Schools CEO Paul Vallas, former Police Board President Lori Lightfoot, Cook County Circuit Court Clerk Dorothy Brown, millionaire businessman Willie Wilson, Chicago principals association President Troy LaRaviere, activist Ja’Mal Green, tech entrepreneur Neal Sales-Griffin, Southwest Side attorney Jerry Joyce, policy consultant Amara Enyia, attorney John Kozlar and DePaul student Matthew Roney.
Since Emanuel’s departure from the race last week, several high-profile politicians have weighed a bid, including Preckwinkle, Mendoza, former U.S. Commerce Secretary Bill Daley, 2011 mayoral candidate Gery Chico and U.S. Reps. Luis Guiterrez and Mike Quigley.
Chicago Tribune’s Hal Dardick contributed.
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