A Da­ley domino in play if Preck­win­kle winds up as mayor?

Chicago Sun-Times - - TOP NEWS - MARK BROWN PO­LIT­I­CAL MAT­TERS mark­brown@sun­times.com | @MarkBrownCST

Many of the would-be can­di­dates for mayor cur­rently hold other po­lit­i­cal of­fices, which means a vic­tory for any of them would create a va­cancy that could set off a pos­si­ble suc­ces­sion bat­tle.

The most in­trigu­ing pos­si­bil­i­ties, though, in­volve what hap­pens if Cook County Board Pres­i­dent Toni Preck­win­kle be­comes mayor.

Many county com­mis­sion­ers think it likely that if Preck­win­kle moves to City Hall, County Board Fi­nance Chair­man John P. Da­ley would emerge as the act­ing board pres­i­dent — as­sum­ing this son of one Chicago mayor and brother to an­other wants the job.

That may be pre­ma­ture spec­u­la­tion, con­sid­er­ing that Preck­win­kle hasn’t even con­firmed she will be a can­di­date for mayor, let alone been elected.

But it’s on the minds of enough peo­ple that Preck­win­kle had her county le­gal counsel, Laura Le­chow­icz Fe­li­cione, pre­pared to an­swer re­porters’ ques­tions on the sub­ject fol­low­ing Wed­nes­day’s County Board meet­ing.

As Fe­li­cione ex­plained, state law pro­vides that if the board pres­i­dency be­came va­cant next May, it would not be filled un­til the next gen­eral elec­tion in 2020. At that time, only cur­rent County Board mem­bers could run for the of­fice, a cu­ri­ous (some say non­sen­si­cal) lim­i­ta­tion.

Un­til that elec­tion, un­der the county’s rules, the pres­i­dent’s pow­ers and du­ties would be as­sumed by the pres­i­dent pro tem­pore.

That post is cur­rently held by Com­mis­sioner Deb­o­rah Sims, a low­pro­file County Board vet­eran from the south sub­urbs.

But the pres­i­dent pro tem­pore po­si­tion is filled anew at the be­gin­ning of each term with a nom­i­na­tion from the County Board pres­i­dent and a vote from the County Board. Only County Board mem­bers may hold the post.

That means Preck­win­kle could stick with Sims OR name some­body else to the slot when the new County Board or­ga­nizes it­self this De­cem­ber.

The log­i­cal can­di­date for such a pres­i­dent-in-wait­ing po­si­tion would be Da­ley, 71, who is the most pow­er­ful mem­ber of the County Board — by virtue of his longevity, fi­nance chair­man­ship and over­all good re­la­tions with both Democrats and Repub­li­cans.

“I would think he’s in the best po­si­tion,” agreed com­mis­sioner Lawrence Suf­fredin, an in­flu­en­tial Evanston Demo­crat.

Com­mis­sioner Tim Sch­nei­der, a Bartlett Repub­li­can and chair­man of the state Repub­li­can Party, was like-minded.

“I would say prob­a­bly Chair­man Da­ley. While we dis­agree a fair amount on pol­icy, he does a re­ally good job of build­ing re­la­tion­ships with both sides of the aisle,” Sch­nei­der said.

Sch­nei­der may or may not have a say in the mat­ter as he is among three Repub­li­can com­mis­sion­ers that Preck­win­kle and Cook County Democrats have tar­geted for de­feat in Novem­ber.

Sims de­murred on whether she wants to keep the po­si­tion for her­self.

“I’ve thought about it but haven’t given it whole lot of thought. I’m wait­ing to see what the pres­i­dent is go­ing to do and see what Chair­man Da­ley wants,” Sims said.

For his part, John Da­ley wanted no part of the spec­u­la­tion, say­ing he is fo­cused for now on ne­go­ti­at­ing a county bud­get and elect­ing Democrats in Novem­ber.

Still, if Da­ley wanted the job, Preck­win­kle would have dif­fi­culty push­ing through any other can­di­date. Or it could be­come part of a po­lit­i­cal deal.

For those with long mem­o­ries, the cur­rent sce­nario is dif­fer­ent than the last time the board pres­i­dency be­came va­cant in 2006, when Com­mis­sioner Bob­bie Steele was tapped to fill out the term of John Stroger af­ter he was in­ca­pac­i­tated by a stroke dur­ing the fi­nal year of his term.

Un­der those cir­cum­stances, state law called for the County Board to fill the va­cancy from among its ranks by a vote of its mem­bers.

John Da­ley was the pow­er­ful fi­nance chair­man at that time, too, but it was po­lit­i­cally im­prac­ti­cal, if not im­pos­si­ble, for him to as­cend to the board pres­i­dency with his brother, Richard M. Da­ley, in the mayor’s of­fice.

He would no longer have that prob­lem, al­though his as­cen­dancy to the pres­i­dent’s post would in­vite com­par­isons to the odd switcheroo in which Rahm Emanuel gave up his po­si­tion as White House chief of staff to re­place Da­ley as mayor, while for­mer Com­merce Sec­re­tary Bill Da­ley, the mayor’s brother, went to Wash­ing­ton to be­come chief of staff.

Bill Da­ley, of course, is ex­plor­ing his own pos­si­ble cam­paign for mayor.

RICH HEIN/SUN-TIMES

Cook County Board Pres­i­dent Toni Preck­win­kle con­fers with Com­mis­sioner John Da­ley at a meet­ing in 2017.

Deb­o­rah Sims

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