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A loyal Machine Democrat, Moreno was an old school politician

12-1-10 Joseph 'Mario' Moreno talks William Beavers during his last meeting as Cook County Board Commissioner Wednesday County Building. phoby

12-1-10 Joseph "Mario" Moreno talks to William Beavers during his last meeting as a Cook County Board Commissioner Wednesday at the County Building. photo by Jean Lachat/Sun-Times

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Updated: July 30, 2012 6:39AM

Joseph Mario Moreno is no stranger to headlines.

He served on the Cook County Board as a commissioner from 1994 until 2010. During that run, he decided to take on notorious Cicero Town President Betty Loren-Maltese in a high-profile battle for her job.

He not only lost the election to the since-convicted Loren-Maltese, he ended up getting arrested along the way. He was pulled over on drunken driving charges in Cicero in 2000 during the campaign, an arrest he said was nothing more than a political dirty trick.

Prosecutors dropped the case for lack of evidence, and Moreno filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against Cicero. He settled it in 2004 for just over $400,000.

Moreno, 59, grew up on the Southwest Side, but moved to Cicero to run for town president. He has since moved back to Chicago.

The county’s 7th District seat that he held for 16 years covered a large swath of the Southwest Side and Cicero.

Over the years, Moreno has been seen as a loyal, so-called Machine Democrat close to Chicago Ald. Ed Burke (14th) and fellow Commissioner John Daley. As a commissioner, Moreno shared county office space with Daley.

When then-Cook County Board President John Stroger suffered a stroke in 2006, Moreno became president pro tempore — meaning he ran the county board meetings in Stroger’s absence.

Moreno was accused of getting family members county jobs. One of his top aides even told the Sun-Times she kept a “clout list” on the commissioner’s behalf, detailing job opportunities for those with political ties. Moreno denied the allegations.

But the old-school politics spelled his doom, especially when running against fellow Democrat and self-styled reformer Jesus “Chuy” Garcia — a former alderman and state lawmaker who took Moreno’s county seat in 2010.

Moreno told the Sun-Times after the primary defeat to Garcia that with court orders banning political hiring or firing in city and county government, ward bosses can’t line up votes in exchange for jobs and favors as they used to.

“The committeemen don’t have as much influence over the voters as they did when patronage was alive and well,” Moreno said.

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