Toni Preckwinkle

Toni Lynn Preckwinkle (née Reed; born March 17, 1947[2]) is an American politician and the current Cook County Board President in Cook County, Illinois, United States. She was first elected as President of the Cook County Board of Commissioners, the executive branch of Cook County government, in November 2010 and became the first woman elected to this position. She was previously a five-term alderman in the Chicago City Council, representing Chicago's 4th ward. Preckwinkle was a candidate for Mayor of Chicago in the 2019 election, and advanced to the runoff election, which she lost to Lori Lightfoot.[3]

Toni Preckwinkle
Toni Preckwinkle (3107244285) white background.jpg
President of the Cook County Board of Commissioners
Assumed office
December 6, 2010
Preceded byTodd Stroger
Chair of the Cook County Democratic Party
Assumed office
April 18, 2018
Preceded byJoseph Berrios
Member of the Chicago City Council
from the 4th ward
In office
April 2, 1991 – December 6, 2010
Preceded byTimothy C. Evans
Succeeded byShirley Newsome
Personal details
Toni Lynn Reed[1]

(1947-03-17) March 17, 1947 (age 74)
St. Paul, Minnesota, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
Zeus Preckwinkle
(m. 1969; div. 2013)
EducationUniversity of Chicago (BA, MA)

In her first four terms in office as alderman, she emerged as the council's prominent defender of affordable housing. Among other issues, she is known for championing the controversial sweetened beverage tax, sponsorship of living wage ordinances, concerns about the costs and benefits of the city's Olympic bid, and her strong stance against police brutality and excessive force.

Early life, education, and careerEdit

Preckwinkle was born in St. Paul, Minnesota, and attended local schools there. She graduated from Washington High School in St. Paul in 1965.[4] She moved to Chicago to study at the University of Chicago in the Hyde Park community area, where she earned her bachelor's in 1969, and later a master's degree in 1977.[4][5]

After college, Preckwinkle taught history for ten years in several high schools in the Chicago metropolitan area, including Calumet High School, the Visitation School, and Aquinas.[5]

In 1985 and 1986, Preckwinkle served as President of the Disabled Adult Residential Enterprises (DARE). She was active in community organizations, serving as a member of the board of directors of the Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence, and Political Action Director of the Near South Chapter of the Independent Voters of Illinois (IVI-IPO).[5]

During and after her 1987 aldermanic election campaign, she worked as a planner for the Chicago Department of Economic Development.[6][7] By 1990, she was working as executive director of the Chicago Jobs Council, and become allied with civil rights attorney R. Eugene Pincham.[8][9]

Campaigns for Chicago City CouncilEdit

Unsuccessful campaigns for in 1983 and 1987Edit

Chicago's fourth ward is on the South Side of Chicago, adjacent to the Lake Michigan lakefront. It includes all of the Kenwood and Oakland community areas, and portions of Hyde Park, Washington Park, Grand Boulevard, Douglas and the South Loop community areas. The northern part of the ward (North of 45th Street) is predominantly African American, while the more racially diverse southern half is predominantly middle and upper middle-class.[10]

In her first two aldermanic campaigns for the 4th ward, in 1983 and 1987, Preckwinkle lost to the incumbent, Timothy C. Evans, who had been in office since 1973.[11] Evans was Chicago Mayor Harold Washington's City Council floor leader and lieutenant.[11][12] In 1983, Preckwinkle gained enough support to force a runoff election.[13] (Chicago Aldermen are elected without regard to political party affiliation, but must earn a majority of votes or the top two candidates have a runoff election.[10] ) In the runoff, Preckwinkle carried traditionally "independent" precincts in Hyde-Park, but Evans carried the precincts in the north of the Ward.[14]

In the 1987 elections, Evans defeated Preckwinkle by a 77% to 21% margin.[15] In 1987, although both the Chicago Tribune and Chicago Sun-Times endorsed Evans, they praised Preckwinkle for qualities including her intelligence and independence, and expressed hopes she would continue in politics.[6][16] Preckwinkle was endorsed by then state Rep. Carol Moseley Braun and also by the Independent Voters of Illinois-Independent Precinct Organization. Mayor Harold Washington endorsed Evans.[17][18]

Successful campaign in 1991Edit

In 1991, Preckwinkle and four others challenged Evans for the 4th ward alderman's position.[19] In the first round of voting on February 26, 1991, she won nearly one-third popular vote in the ward by winning 20 of 58 precincts (all in the Hyde Park-Kenwood community).[10] Evans and Preckwinkle again advanced to a runoff election, as they had in 1983. This time the majority of the eliminated candidates endorsed Preckwinkle.[20] On April 2, 1991, Preckwinkle performed better in the northern part of the ward and was elected by a 109-vote margin,[10] defeating the 17-year incumbent alderman Evans.[21]

Chicago City Council (1991–2010)Edit

Preckwinkle in 2008


Preckwinkle was initially sworn into office in 1991, and was re-elected to four-year terms in 1995, 1999, 2003, and 2007.[22][23]

In City Council, Preckwinkle developed a reputation for progressiveness.[24][25][26] She was known as being independent of then-Mayor Richard M. Daley, with whom she dissented more often than did any other alderman.[27][28] In addition, Preckwinkle was one of the few aldermen on the City Council occasionally critical of the policies of former Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley.[29]

In 2004, she and Dorothy Tillman were the only aldermen to vote against the Mayor's city budget, and in 2005, Preckwinkle was the lone dissenter.[30] Preckwinkle has supported the majority of legislation advanced by the mayor and his allies, including most of Daley's annual budget proposals; his controversial use of tax increment financing, an economic development program in which tax revenues are funneled into accounts controlled almost exclusively by the mayor; and, ultimately, his quest to host the 2016 Summer Olympics.[31]

Affordable housingEdit

Preckwinkle championed set-asides for affordable housing as her signature issue. The municipal ordinances she sponsored in 1993 and 1999 for affordable housing increased city expenditures on low and moderate income housing by 50 percent.[5] In 2007, she pushed for increases in the existing Affordable Requirements Ordinance. This mandates that housing developers using land bought at a discount from the city, must reserve at least 10 percent of their housing units as "affordable", or to contribute money to an affordable-housing fund that would be equivalent to increasing the percentage to 15 percent.[25] Affordable housing is considered a key element in the debate about ending homelessness in Chicago.[32]

Preckwinkle's depth of knowledge of public housing has been recognised in the national press, which cited her defense of the maligned Vince Lane when the federal government took over Chicago's public housing projects.[33][34]

Police accountabilityEdit

Preckwinkle was outspoken in support of the city settling the Jon Burge police torture case, rather than continuing to spend money in the litigation process.[35] She was also proactive in the effort to pursue compensation for victims of police brutality in the related Burge cases, and sought hearings on the initial special prosecutor's report.[36] She has been a critic of the decades-long delay in settling the case,[37][38] and supported the settlement.[39]

In 2007, Preckwinkle pursued disclosure of Chicago Police Department officers who were accused of using excessive force. The United States District Court had ruled that the records be unsealed and made available to the public. However, on July 13, 2007, the city filed an emergency motion to stay the judge's order. When the city argued in the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals against disclosure, it said that aldermen would have access to the information. But Preckwinkle's August 23, 2007, request for the data was denied.[40][41]

Economic policyEdit

Preckwinkle was a co-sponsor of the living wage ordinances that passed the city council in 1998 and 2002.[5] On July 26, 2006, Preckwinkle was one of 35 aldermen who voted to approve the 2006 Chicago Big Box Ordinance sponsored by Alderman Joe Moore (49th).[42] For 7 weeks, until the law was overturned, Chicago was the largest United States city to require big-box retailers to pay a "living wage."

Hyde Park 2006 Independence Day parade (left to right starting at center in light green): Preckwinkle as the Statue of Liberty, Illinois State Representative Barbara Flynn Currie as Uncle Sam, and Chicago City Council Alderman Leslie Hairston as Betsy Ross

Ward-level issuesEdit

In October 2007, Preckwinkle opposed naming a landmark in the 4th ward for Saul Bellow, the 1976 Nobel literature laureate, reportedly because Bellow had made remarks that Preckwinkle considered racist.[43][44] She also opposed the renaming of a stretch of street near the original Playboy Club as "Hugh Hefner Way."[45][46]

In 2006, Preckwinkle decided to paint over two 36-year-old, neglected and severely damaged public murals in the 47th Street Metra underpass. The murals had been created by graffiti artists, working with permission from the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs, and had represented themes that included Latin-American, African, Mayan, Indian, and Native American spiritual practices.[47] The walls were later covered with murals that were newly commissioned by the city: one is made up of a series of ceramic tiles and the other is a traditional painted mural, featuring the city and important historical South Side figures, including former Alderman Dorothy Tillman.

Chicago 2016 Olympic bidEdit

The Chicago 2016 Olympic bid would have placed the main site of the $1.1 billion residential complex in the 4th Ward, to accommodate athletes in an Olympic Village. Chicago was not chosen.[48] Preckwinkle expressed her reservations about the initial plan, and was involved in plan revisions.[49][50]

Since the construction was planned almost entirely in her ward, she expressed concern that her constituents had not been offered a chance to voice their concerns with the plan. She was an early advocate of moving what would have been the Olympic Village from the McCormick Place truck yard to the Michael Reese Hospital site.[51]

She also had concerns about how the proposed project would be financed. On March 14, 2007, Preckwinkle joined four other South Side aldermen in voting against a $500 million public-funded guarantee to back up Chicago's Olympics bid.[52] But on September 9, 2009, Preckwinkle voted to authorize Mayor Richard Daley to sign the International Olympic Committee's host city contract, which included financial guarantees putting full responsibility for the Olympics and its proposed $4.8 billion operating budget on taxpayers.[53][54]

Cook County Board President (2010–present)Edit

Preckwinkle announced in January 2009, that she would run for President of the Cook County Board.[55] She launched her campaign website on June 18, 2009.[56] On February 2, 2010, she won the Democratic Primary, defeating the incumbent Board President Todd Stroger, among others. Preckwinkle faced Roger Keats, the Republican nominee, in the November general election.[57] On November 2, Preckwinkle became the first woman elected as Cook County President by capturing over two-thirds of the vote.[58][59] After her Republican opponent received 26% of the vote, he left the state.[60] Preckwinkle recommended that Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley appoint Will Burns to succeed her as Fourth Ward Alderman,[61][62] but Burns preferred to run in an open primary.[63] Mayor Daley appointed Shirley Newsome as a "caretaker" alderman on January 12, 2011. Burns handily won the special election for the seat a month later.

Preckwinkle in 2015

In August 2012, Dr. Nancy Jones, former head of the Cook County Morgue, referred to Preckwinkle as "evil" in criticizing her handling of the management and budgeting of the Morgue. Jones alleged that bodies had piled up and conditions were filthy.[64]

Also in August 2012, Preckwinkle defended Chicago's action to decriminalize possession of small amounts of cannabis by allowing police to write tickets. She asserted that drug laws had unfairly resulted in more minorities being incarcerated for minor offenses. She later apologized for an inflammatory remark about President Ronald Reagan on this topic.[65]

On March 22, 2016, Preckwinkle announced that she had selected Brian Hamer, who served as the state's revenue director under Gov. Rod Blagojevich and then Quinn, to replace Tasha Green Cruzat as her chief of staff.[66]

In 2018, under Preckwinkle's leadership, Cook County requested an easement to build a road at taxpayer expense (~$750K-$1M) to pave public green space and the 10th hole of the Canal Shores Golf Course for the benefit of State Senator John Cullerton and a private developer.[67] The easement was approved by the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District in spite of strong opposition by local residents and the Wilmette Park District.[68]

On 25 June 2019, during a fundraiser held at the Chicago Cultural Center, Preckwinkle reversed a decision she made not to run for another term and will seek re-election as Cook County Board President in 2022.[69]

2019 Chicago mayoral candidacyEdit

Preckwinkle in April 2019

On September 20, 2018, Preckwinkle announced her candidacy for Mayor of Chicago in the 2019 election to replace Rahm Emanuel.[70][71][72]

Preckwinkle launched a number of challenges to the petitions of several candidates. She received criticism from other candidates for choosing to challenge candidates that were female and people of color.[73][74] She launched five challenges against candidates that were women.[74]

In early 2019, Preckwinkle was connected to alderman Edward M. Burke following his arrest for corruption by the FBI. Burke had allegedly pressured fast-food executive Shoukat Dhanani to make an illegal $10,000 donation to Preckwinkle's campaign. Preckwinkle ultimately returned over $100,000 that had been raised for her by Burke. She also called for Burke to resign from City Council. Preckwinkle, however, has been proven to have previously met with Burke just before hiring Burke's son for a six-figure county job.[75][76][77][78]

Ahead of the first round, Chicago magazine predicted that many progressive voters, expecting Bill Daley to advance to runoff and wanting a strong progressive opponent to him, might tactically vote for Preckwinkle, despite also liking Lori Lightfoot and Amara Enyia.[79]

Because no candidate reached the necessary 50% of the vote needed to win the election outright, Preckwinkle and Lori Lightfoot advanced to a runoff election. In the runoff, both the Chicago Sun-Times and the Chicago Tribune endorsed Lightfoot.[80][81] Several former candidates, including Mendoza, Chico, Paul Vallas, and fourth-place finisher Willie Wilson also endorsed Lightfoot in the runoff.[82][83] In an additional blow to Preckwinkle, Jesús "Chuy" García, who had been previously an ally of Preckwinkle's and floor leader for her on the Cook County County Board of Commissioners, endorsed Lightfoot (Preckwinkle herself had declined to endorse Garcia in the runoff of the previous 2015 Chicago mayoral election).[84][85] Lightfoot held a substantial lead over Preckwinkle in polls conducted during the runoff campaign.[86][87][88][89][90][91][92][93]

In the runoff, Preckwinkle highlighted her depth of government experience and sought to emphasize a contrast with Lightfoot's lack of experience in elected office.[94]

Lightfoot won the April 2, 2019 runoff election with more than 73% of the vote.[95] Lightfoot won every ward of the city.[95] Preckwinkle had only managed to beat Lightfoot in a mere 20 of the city's 2,069 voting precincts, carrying less than 1% of the city's precincts.[96] At the request of Rev. Jesse Jackson, both Preckwinkle and Lightfoot held a unity press conference at the Rainbow/PUSH headquarters on April 3, 2019, pledging to work together and not to get in the way of each other's political careers.[97][98]

Democratic Party rolesEdit

Democratic Party Committeeman for the 4th ward (1992–2018)Edit

Each of the 50 wards of the city and the 30 townships of Cook County elect a Democratic Committeeman to the Cook County Central Committee. These committeemen form the official governing body of the Cook County Democratic Party which, among other purposes, endeavors to attract, endorse, and support qualified Democratic candidates for office.[99][100][101]

Preckwinkle succeeded Evans as 4th Ward Democratic committeeman in 1992, defeating former Evans administrative assistant Johnnie E. Hill by 6,227 to 2,327 votes in the March 17, 1992 primary election. Evans had filed nominating petitions to run for re-election as committeeman and run for judge of the Cook County Circuit Court, but withdrew his name from the ballot for committeeman in order to concentrate on the judgeship (to which he was elected).[102] Preckwinkle was re-elected as 4th Ward Democratic committeeman on March 19, 1996, running unopposed on the ballot after her successful challenges to the nominating petitions of Charles S. Williams and her 1995 and 1999 aldermanic challenger Kwame Raoul. They were each a few dozen signatures short of the number required to earn a place on the ballot.[103] Preckwinkle was re-elected, again running unopposed on the ballot, as 4th Ward Democratic committeeman in March 2000, March 2004, and February 2008.

On November 6, 2004, the 10 Democratic ward committeemen whose wards make up parts of the 13th Illinois legislative district, voted to appoint Kwame Raoul to the state senate seat vacated two days earlier by U.S. Senator-elect Barack Obama. 4th Ward Democratic committeeman Preckwinkle and 5th Ward Democratic committeeman Leslie Hairston had the largest says in the appointment, with 29% and 27%, respectively, of the weighted-vote based on the percentage of votes cast in each ward in the 13th legislative district for Obama in the November 5, 2002 general election.[104]

Preckwinkle chairs the ward organization, the Fourth Ward Democratic Organization.[105] It was among 16 Chicago Democratic ward organizations named in a complaint filed on August 31, 2005 with the Illinois State Board of Elections by the Cook County Republican Party. It charged that Democratic Party ward organizations are illegally housed in City-funded neighborhood ward offices.[106] Taxpayers fund aldermanic service centers, which are open to the general public, but state law prohibits the use of public funds by any candidate for political or campaign purposes.[107] The complaint against Preckwinkle's ward organization was one of nine that a Hearing Officer appointed by the Board recommended proceeding to the next step of the hearing process, an Open Preliminary Hearing. On October 17, 2005, at a regularly scheduled meeting of the Board of Elections, the Board entered an executive session and voted, in a 4–4 tie, along strict party lines. It failed to adopt the recommendation of the Hearing Officer, and ordered the complaints dismissed.[108]

The complaint against Preckwinkle's ward organization was among eight that the Cook County Republican Party appealed to the Supreme Court of Illinois.[109] On January 23, 2009, the Illinois Supreme Court unanimously ordered the Illinois appellate court to conduct a judicial review of the Board's dismissals of the complaints.[110]

Preckwinkle nominated Joseph Berrios for re-election as Chairman of the Democratic Party of Cook County at a meeting of the Cook County Democratic Central Committee on March 3, 2010. At the time Berrios was the incumbent chairman as well as a commissioner with the Cook County Board of Review and the Democratic candidate for Cook County Assessor. Berrios was re-elected.[111]

In 2016, Preckwinkle was a presidential elector from Illinois.[112]

Chair of the Cook County Democratic Party (2018–present)Edit

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle in March 2017

Preckwinkle was elected Chair of the Cook County Democratic Party by acclamation on April 18, 2018 after then chair Joseph Berrios lost in a primary challenge as Cook County Assessor.[113][99]

Views on Barack ObamaEdit

Preckwinkle's views on Obama were prominently featured in a July 2008 New Yorker cover story on Barack Obama's political origins.[114][115][116] The article begins by recounting a 1995 meeting between Preckwinkle and Obama in which he discussed a possible run for the Illinois Senate seat then held by Alice Palmer.[116] According to the New Yorker, Preckwinkle "soon became an Obama loyalist, and she stuck with him in a State Senate campaign that strained or ruptured many friendships but was ultimately successful."[115][116] In 1997, she successfully challenged the signatures of Obama's opponents in the Democratic Primary for the Illinois Senate, allowing Obama to run unopposed.[117]

Preckwinkle supported Obama, endorsing him in his campaigns for Illinois Senate in 1995–96,[118] U.S. House in 1999–2000,[119] and U.S. Senate in 2003–04.[120] She was among those who encouraged Obama to make his first run for the United States Congress in 2000,[121] and she was an early supporter when he ran in 2004.[122] When Obama was elected in 2004 as a United States Senator, Preckwinkle had a large say in his Illinois State Senate replacement.[123] She became Obama's Alderman when he moved from Hyde Park to South Kenwood in June 2005.[124]

According to the New Yorker article, Preckwinkle had since become "disenchanted" with Obama. The article’s author suggested that Preckwinkle's "grievances" against Obama were motivated by her perception that Obama was disloyal.[125] Preckwinkle still served as an Obama delegate at the 2008 Democratic National Convention.

Electoral historyEdit

1991 Chicago 4th Ward aldermanic election
Candidate General Election[126] Runoff Election[127]
Votes % Votes %
Toni Preckwinkle 3,082 30.4 6,175 50.50
Timothy C. Evans (incumbent) 4,486 44.3 3,224 49.50
Robert L. Lucas 1,114 11.0
William Powell 1,068 10.5
Eva Jean Jackson 201 2.0
James Fitzhugh 175 1.7
1995 Chicago 4th Ward aldermanic election[128]
Candidate Votes %
Toni Preckwinkle (incumbent) 6,027 56.6
Kwame Raoul 2,259 21.2
Maurice Perkins 1,795 16.9
Brian Marshall 563 5.3
1999 Chicago 4th Ward aldermanic election[129]
Candidate Votes %
Toni Preckwinkle (incumbent) 7,069 60.5
Charles S. Williams 2,540 21.7
Kwame Raoul 2,082 17.8
2003 Chicago 4th Ward aldermanic election[130]
Candidate Votes %
Toni Preckwinkle (incumbent) 6,612 67.90
Norman H. Bolden 3,126 32.10
Total votes 9,738 100
2007 Chicago 4th Ward aldermanic election[131]
Candidate Votes %
Toni Preckwinkle (incumbent) 7,601 75.98
Norman H. Bolden 2,403 24.02
Total votes 10,004 100
2010 President of the Cook County Board of Commissioners Democratic primary[132][133]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Toni Preckwinkle 281,905 48.99
Democratic Terrence J. O'Brien 131,896 22.92
Democratic Dorothy A. Brown 83,150 14.45
Democratic Todd H. Stoger (incumbent) 78,532 13.65
Total votes 575,483 100
2010 President of the Cook County Board of Commissioners election[134][135]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Toni Preckwinkle 939,056 69.54
Republican Roger A. Keats 357,070 26.44
Green Thomas Tresser 54,273 4.02
Total votes 1,350,399 100
2014 President of the Cook County Board of Commissioners Democratic primary[136]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Toni Preckwinkle (incumbent) 240,831 100.00
Total votes 240,831 100
2014 President of the Cook County Board of Commissioners election[137]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Toni Preckwinkle (incumbent) 1,072,886 100.00
Total votes 1,072,886 100
2018 President of the Cook County Board of Commissioners Democratic primary[138][139]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Toni Preckwinkle (incumbent) 444,943 60.82
Democratic Bob Fioretti 286,675 39.18
Total votes 731,618 100
2018 President of the Cook County Board of Commissioners election[140][141]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Toni Preckwinkle (incumbent) 1,355,407 100.00
Total votes 1,355,407 100
2019 Chicago mayoral election
Candidate General Election[142] Run-off Election[143]
Votes % Votes %
Lori Lightfoot 97,667 17.54 386,039 73.70
Toni Preckwinkle 89,343 16.04 137,765 26.30
William Daley 82,294 14.78
Willie Wilson 59,072 10.61
Susana Mendoza 50,373 9.05
Amara Enyia 44,589 8.00
Jerry Joyce 40,099 7.20
Gery Chico 34,521 6.20
Paul Vallas 30,236 5.43
Garry McCarthy 14,784 2.66
La Shawn K. Ford 5,606 1.01
Robert "Bob" Fioretti 4,302 0.77
John Kolzar 2,349 0.42
Neal Sales-Griffin 1,523 0.27
Write-ins 86 0.02
Total 556,844 100 523,804 100

Personal lifeEdit

From 1969 to 2013, she was married to Zeus Preckwinkle, then a seventh- and eighth-grade teacher at Ancona Montessori School.[144] They have two children. Her former husband is Caucasian, and as "a lightly complexioned black woman", Preckwinkle's interracial marriage was used against her by political opponents as a campaign issue.[145]


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External linksEdit

Political offices
Preceded by
Todd Stroger
President of the Cook County Board of Commissioners