A Daley domino in play if Preckwinkle winds up as mayor?
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.
Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle confers with Commissioner John Daley at a meeting in 2017.