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What's really going on in the primary elections

Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Cook County board president Toni Preckwinkle aren’t up for election. But they’re out to win.

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It's the moment we've all been waiting for: the chance to vote for the next Cook County court clerk.

I know—we're really excited too.

Believe it or not, there's an election upon us—early voting has already started, and Election Day is March 20.

Aside from the Republican presidential candidates fighting to return us to 1955, no other high-profile races are on the ballot—no U.S. senator, no governor, no attorney general.

Incumbent state's attorney Anita Alvarez is running for reelection, but she's unopposed, and many of the candidates in the most contested legislative races can be distinguished only by who's backing them.

So really this election is an opportunity for the area's most powerful politicians—the big boys and girls—to see who has the longest, um, tentacles.

Strictly speaking, Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Cook County board president Toni Preckwinkle aren't up for election. But they're out to win anyway in races across the region.

"The mayor's main focus when deciding to back a candidate is whether or not that candidate will be a good public servant," says Tom Bowen, Emanuel's political spokesman.

"I'm just supporting good people," is how Cook County board president Toni Preckwinkle puts it.

In other words: what's good is getting behind a winner.

The fight for influence starts with the Illinois Supreme Court race pitting Emanuel's neighbor, Mary Jane Theis, against Preckwinkle's friend, Joy Cunningham.

Also in the mix is Thomas Flannigan, a Winnetka lawyer with no major endorsements. In fact, his main asset is his Irish name. Don't laugh—there have been times when judicial candidates legally changed their names to get an edge from sounding Irish.

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