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Toni Preckwinkle Wins County Post, Becomes First Woman Board President

In a sweeping victory that was also widely expected, 4th Ward Ald. Toni Preckwinkle took the stage Tuesday night before a roomful of cheering supporters, saying, “I’m proud to stand here as your next Cook County Board president.”

Preckwinkle’s win makes her the first woman board president in Cook County. “I want to say this to the residents of Cook County: For far too long you’ve seen your taxes go up with less to show for it,” Preckwinkle said to the crowd of supporters.

The Associated Press reported that Preckwinkle won with 69 percent of the vote. Her opponent, Republican Roger Keats, won 21 percent of the vote, with 78 percent of precincts reporting. The Green Party candidate, Tom Tresser, pulled in 4.1 percent of the vote.

She has said that she will post her transition website up tomorrow, and welcomes anyone to apply for a job in her office.

“I believe that it’s a new day in Cook County, and with all of your help I’m confident we can meet the challenges before us and tonight we can celebrate the opportunity given,” she said. “We will deliver a county government of which we can all be proud.”

Preckwinkle thanked her parents, who are both public servants. Shortly after Preckwinkle walked onto the stage and declared victory, supporters began chanting “Toni, Toni!”

Referring to many of the problems faced by the county, Preckwinkle added, “While the news has been disheartening, it has only strengthened my resolve to fix this broken system.” Preckwinkle ran against Republican Roger Keats and Green Party candidate Tom Tresser. She was the predicted winner when she won the Feb. 2 primary.

Preckwinkle’s campaign portrayed her as a reformer. Her signature issue has been calls for a sharp sales tax cut. She worked hard to distance herself from unpopular Cook County Board President Todd Stroger, who implemented a 1 percent sales tax in Cook County in 2007, which gave Chicago the highest city sales taxes in the nation.

Preckwinkle has said that if she fails to deliver on her promise to scale back the sales tax, she will resign from as Cook County board president.

Preckwinkle campaign has focused on creating fiscal stability and tax relief, strengthening the Health Care system and fixing Cook County’s overcrowded jails.

Preckwinkle has raised more money than her opponents. Preckwinkle’s campaign raised $1.3 million in the first half of the year, and according to the Illinois State Board of Elections, as of Oct. 3 she had $637,700, while Keats reported $29,803 and Tresser had a mere $1,546.

Much of her major funding has come from unions, who were slow to warm up to her at first but soon made their support clear. In a midterm election cycle that has generated more campaign money than ever before, Preckwinkle’s biggest supporter by far has been the Services Illinois International Union (SEIU). The SEIU represents 5,500 Cook County employees, and it contributed $150,000 in cash to her campaign and $64,425 in in-kind contributions.

The Teamsters and the United Food and Commercial workers have also contributed to Preckwinkle’s campaign, contributing $25,400 and $12,000, respectively. A former history teacher, Preckwinkle has also received endorsements from many of the teachers unions in the city.

Preckwinkle claimed the Democratic nomination for Cook County Board president in February when she beat Stroger, Circuit Court Clerk Dorothy Brown and Metropolitan Water Reclamation District president Terrence O’Brien.

Prior to running for Cook County Board President, Preckwinkle was the 4th ward alderman on Chicago’s South Side. Preckwinkle has held the position for 19 years and is in her fifth term. Her history of voting against some of Mayor Richard Daley’s major proposals has earned her a reputation as an independent in a city where the mayor’s machine dominates. According to an analysis by the University of Chicago, from 2000 to 2007 no other alderman cast more unfavorable votes for initiatives supported by Daley.

As alderman, Preckwinkle has focused an bringing more mixed income and affordable housing to her district, and she has brought in more than 1,500 units of low- and moderate-income housing.

Before running for alderman in 1991, Preckwinkle was a high school history teacher for 10 years. She received both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees at the University of Chicago.

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