Todd Stroger: I’m interested in replacing William Beavers
BY NATASHA KORECKI Political Reporter Twitter: @natashakorecki March 22, 2013 12:14PM
Ald Todd Stroger, talks with Ald William Beavers (left) following greeting in City Council meeting with applauds and hugs morning after winning the President of Cook County Board. (File Photo by John H. White)
Updated: April 24, 2013 6:09AM
With the ink barely dry on William Beavers’ guilty verdict form, another familiar name is angling to replace the disgraced Cook County commissioner.
Former Cook County Board President Todd Stroger told the Chicago Sun-Times on Friday he wants in.
“Actually, I do have an interest,” in replacing Beavers on the Cook County Board. “I am going to reach out to all the committeemen this weekend,” Stroger said in a phone interview.
Stroger, who was ousted in his re-election bid by the reform-minded Toni Preckwinkle, said he’s been thinking about a comeback for some time. Beavers was Stroger’s staunchest ally on the County Board and a close friend of his father, the late County Board President John Stroger.
“For one thing I’m 50, and I found that at 50 you have to find something to do, so you might as well find something you know and you like,” Todd Stroger said. “What I said about the county in my term, we need someone who can actually speak the truth in the county.”
Stroger, who pushed through a controversial sales tax hike that was repealed, said current tax hikes by the county show that in the end he was right.
“As you can see, the county is trying to raise money through other taxes,” he said. “They were never able to raise significant revenue to keep the health system going as needed. It just shows that sometimes … things that seem to be the hardest are still the things that we need to do.
Stroger acknowledged he and Beavers were close during Stroger’s time at the helm of the County Board.
“He was always supportive,” Stroger said Friday.
“My thought is that he wouldn’t do anything that he thought was illegal. But elected officials are held to a different standard. It doesn’t matter what his intentions were later,” Stroger said when asked for his reaction to the case against Beavers, which included Beavers using his campaign fund to boost his pension and bankroll a gambling habit.
“When you’re an elected official, they are harsher with you,” Stroger said. “I haven’t talked to him yet, I am going to give him a call.”
When asked if he was surprised or saddened by Beavers’ verdict, Stroger said: “Well, that’s all I really want to say on that.”
Stroger shrugged off questions about the federal indictment of his onetime top aide and childhood friend Eugene Mullins. Mullins, whose trial is set for the fall, was accused of scheming to “fraudulently steer” multiple grants to the other men who were indicted, who then allegedly gave him thousands of dollars in kickbacks.
“You know what? Sometimes things happen — and I’m not the one to say guilty or innocent — but things happen in administrations, but I don’t think that’s a reflection on me,” Stroger said. “That’s nothing on me.”
Asked if he could say that the investigation would not lead to him, Stroger responded: “No, it certainly will not be. As a matter of fact this has been going on for a two years, I believe,” he said.
Stroger said he’s not been contacted by authorities but the defense had asked him for a “statement” regarding its case.
A federal jury on Thursday took less than two hours to convict Beavers of using his campaign account as a slush fund to boost his pension and gambling habit.
Upon conviction, Beavers lost his position as 4th District commissioner on the Cook County Board, creating a vacancy.
“I believe that the moment the verdict was read yesterday, the office was vacated,” said Cook County Commissioner Larry Suffredin.
Two other names surfaced as possible replacements on Friday; both of whom are tied to Ald. Roderick Sawyer (6th). Sawyer acknowledged that his cousin, Ken Sawyer, and his chief of staff, Brian Sleet, are among those angling to replace Beavers.
Beavers’ replacement will be by appointment, based on the Democratic ward committeemen’s vote, which is weighted according to voter turnout in Beavers’ last election.
Cook County Democratic Party Chairman Joe Berrios said Friday he would appoint a group of committeeman to begin screening candidates to replace Beavers on the Cook County Board.
“It will probably be fairly quickly,” Berrios said. Berrios said he had not yet heard from interested parties.
The appointee will then serve out the remainder of Beavers’ term, which is to end December 2014.
Ald. Howard Brookins (21st), chairman of the City Council’s Black Caucus, will cast the largest number of weighted votes as 21st Ward Democratic committeeman. Brookins told the Chicago Sun-Times on Friday that he does not yet have a favorite to replace Beavers.
Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle on Friday urged committeemen to appoint someone with a history of community involvement.
“This has been an unfortunate turn of events for all considered, especially the residents of the 4th District,” Preckwinkle said. “It is my hope the committeemen find a candidate who has a record of community involvement and who is committed to serving the residents of the 4th District and representing them on the Cook County Board of Commissioners.”
Beavers, who did not take the witness stand, vowed to appeal his conviction, saying “even Ray Charles” could see he got a raw deal.
His attorney Sam Adam Jr. said Thursday he took full responsibility for the loss suffered in court.
“I’m hoping I get a second chance at this when the appeal goes back,” Adam said.
Contributing: Fran Spielman