Cook Co. Board President John Stroger hospitalized
March 15, 2006 (WLS) -- It now looks as if Cook County Board President John Stroger won't be out of the hospital in time for next week's primary election. He was taken to the hospital Tuesday morning after suffering a stroke. Still, the Cook County Board of Commissioners met as scheduled Wednesday.
The medical team at Rush is "cautiously optimistic" that Stroger will recover from the stroke. He is listed in stable condition, but he will be in the hospital for at least one more week, and that is fueling a lot of speculation about his future, even if he wins next week's Democratic primary.
As the campaign and county government lurch into unprecedented territory, one commissioner says he's improving.
"The improvement is significant enough where there is cautious optimism regarding his condition. He was speaking this morning and he's able to converse with his doctors," said James Whigham, Stroger's chief of staff.
The president's chief of staff updated the county board on John Stroger's condition at Wednesay's morning's meeting. Commissioner Mario Moreno, the president pro tem, ran the meeting in Stroger's absence, emphasizing that he is not auditioning for the job permanently.
"I haven't given it much thought. I am the president pro tem. I do get along with all the commissioners. But I'm not going there. The president is the president and I fully expect him to come back and win the election in November," said Moreno, (D)-Chicago.
The other commissioners are downplaying reports of secret meetings and phone calls among Democratic power brokers about possible replacements if Stroger can't come back to work.
"I was across the building when Mayor Washington had his heart attack, and I came down here that day, and there was already maneuvering. That's not happening here," said commissioner Mike Quigley, (D)-Chicago.
The campaign is also emphasizing the positive as more than a thousand volunteers, including hundreds of members of the service employees union, start hitting the streets for a massive get-out-the-vote operation, even though the situation is a bit surreal.
"Don't worry about it. Nobody down here is tougher," said Valerie Emanuel, Stroger supporter.
"There will be action over the next several days to ensure that the vote turns out on Tuesday," said Tom Hynes, campaign co-chairman.
Challenger Forrest Claypool is also back on the campaign trail after taking Tuesday night off, with the same message, but not the fiery rhetoric that has characterized the race up to now.
"If people are happy with the county government, they can vote for the incumbent. If they think they can do better, if they're upset with the problems with the county, and adopt my vision they have a choice for change, for a serious and significant change," Claypool said.
Nearly everybody seems to be toning down the rhetoric with the exception of columnist Neil Steinberg, who wrote in Wednesday's Sun-Times that John Stroger, a long-time stalwart in the Democratic organization, is "only black when he needs to pick pockets for tax dollars and votes. Don't fall for it."
The column is infuriating a lot of people in the city and the African-American community. There is talk of a boycott against the Sun-Times, but so far it's only talk.
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