Two Top Chicago Politicians Jump Into Mayor’s Race

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle (left) and attorney Gery Chico (right).
Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle (left) and attorney Gery Chico (right). AP Photos
Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle (left) and attorney Gery Chico (right).
Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle (left) and attorney Gery Chico (right). AP Photos

Two Top Chicago Politicians Jump Into Mayor’s Race

WBEZ brings you fact-based news and information. Sign up for our newsletters to stay up to date on the stories that matter.

Two experienced Chicago politicians are jumping into the 2019 race for mayor.

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle launched her bid for the city’s top job this afternoon, surrounded by supporters in Hyde Park.

“For too long, the history of this city, of this office, has been shaped by a focus on downtown rather than its surrounding neighborhoods,” Preckwinkle told supporters. “I’m not anti-downtown. I’m anti-only-downtown.”

Hours earlier, attorney Gery Chico threw his name into the ring as well. Chico ran for mayor in 2011 and served as chief of staff to former Mayor Richard M. Daley.

The latest additions bring the total number of candidates to 15. A few others, including 2015 mayoral candidate Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, are considering a run for mayor now that current Mayor Rahm Emanuel has bowed out. Earlier this week, Bill Daley, the brother and son of former mayors Richard M. and Richard J. Daley announced his candidacy.

Here’s a look at the latest two mayoral hopefuls.

Toni Preckwinkle

Surrounded by supporters at the Chicago Lake Shore Hotel in Hyde Park, Preckwinkle laid out her campaign platform.

In announcing her candidacy, Preckwinkle said she supports an elected school board instead of the current, mayoral-appointed board. Mayor Rahm Emanuel and his allies have long resisted switching to an elected board, which the Chicago Teachers Union has long called for.

It appears that Preckwinkle’s focus will be on children and education, as fans were circulated among supports saying, “Toni Preckwinkle - Children First.” Notably present at Preckwinkle’s campaign kick-off was current Chicago Board of Education President Frank Clark.

“We need to make sure that what’s possible for some of our children is the reality for all of our children,” Preckwinkle told supporters.

Campaign finance disclosure reports show her biggest contributors since she first ran for county board president in 2010 include SEIU, other labor groups, and North Side businessman Fred Eychaner.

Preckwinkle may face criticism from challengers that she represents the old political machine in Chicago. She was recently elected as chair of the Cook County Democratic Party, after former Chairman Joseph Berrios lost his re-election as County assessor.

She also faced some turmoil earlier this week after reports that her chief of staff, John Keller, allegedly engaged in inappropriate behavior on personal time. Preckwinkle demanded his resignation on Monday. Preckwinkle has gone through several chiefs of staff since she took office in 2010.

Gery Chico

In a WBEZ interview Thursday, Chico positioned himself as the candidate with the most experience inside city government — from serving as the mayor’s chief of staff to president of the school board to head of the park district.

Chico marks the first Latino candidate to enter the race. He said while he’s proud of his Mexican-American roots, his mother is of Greek and Lithuanian descent, and he’s not running to represent one group of Chicagoans.

“I’m from throughout the city and I work for everybody in the city,” Chico said. “I’ve lived in Brighton Park, McKinley Park, Rogers Park, and points in between. I think I know what makes this city tick because I’ve lived in these communities.”

He also ran for mayor against Rahm Emanuel in 2011 and took second place with about 24 percent of the vote.

“This time, we’re going to fight even harder, and I think that I’m better known than I was in 2011,” he said.

If elected, Chico said one of his top priorities would be reducing crime and violence. When asked about the federal consent decree to oversee reform within the Chicago Police Department, Chico said it doesn’t worry him.

“I think it’s actually a well thought out document,” Chico said. “Not everybody is going to be happy with provisions in it, but so be it. It’s a blueprint for reform that’s going to begin to rebuild the trust between the police and our communities.”

Becky Vevea covers city politics for WBEZ. Follow her @beckyvevea.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.