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Preckwinkle holds her nose over 2 convicts running for County Board

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle  |  Sun-Times file photo

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle | Sun-Times file photo

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Updated: January 6, 2014 1:06PM

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, who built her political career on a reputation of reform, said she isn’t too keen on the possibility of two convicted former Chicago officials getting elected to the county board.

Ultimately, however, the decision is out of her hands. A quirk in the law allows felons to hold county, state or federal office – even if they are barred from holding city office.

Recently, former Streets and Sanitation Commissioner Al Sanchez and former Chicago Ald. Isaac Carothers (29th) — both convicted felons — filed nominating petitions declaring their candidacies, apparently taking advantage of the law.

“These are people who were public servants, so, in a way, it’s not surprising that they would want to continue being public servants,” said Preckwinkle. “The people of the district will decide if they will be their representative.”

Sanchez is running for the Southeast Side and suburban seat vacated by convicted former board member William Beavers, who reported to federal prison on Monday. Carothers is running for the seat being vacated by Earlean Collins on the West Side.

“I never got along very well with Alderman Carothers . . . I don’t intend to support former Alderman Carothers,” Preckwinkle told reporters Wednesday after the county board meeting downtown.

“I know Al Sanchez. I worked with him. I always found him very helpful and good at his job,” said Preckwinkle, who is supporting Commissioner Stanley Moore, who was appointed to fill Beavers’ vacancy.

While Preckwinkle acknowledged the two men are allowed to run, she cautioned that there will likely be challenges to their candidacies.

“I presume that there might be some challenge as to the eligibility of either or both of these candidates on the basis of their convictions for public corruption,” she said.

The longtime head of the Hispanic Democratic Organization (HDO) Southeast, Sanchez is just five months removed from the federal prison camp in Marion, Ill., where he lost 50 pounds.

He spent 2.5 years there for rigging city hiring and promotions to benefit soldiers in HDO, a now-defunct army of political workers that helped to elect and re-elect former Mayor Richard M. Daley.

Carothers, the former chairman of the City Council’s Police and Fire Committee, was convicted of bribery, mail fraud and tax fraud for taking $40,000 in home improvements from a developer seeking zoning changes. He also admitted in court to pocketing bribes from others.

Contributing: Fran Spielman



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