Evanston Democrats have overwhelmingly endorsed challenger Forrest Claypool over incumbent John Stroger in the March primary race for president of the Cook County Board.

At a meeting at Beth Emet Synagogue Sunday, party activists gave 90 percent of their votes to Claypool and only 7 percent to Stroger.

Commissioner Claypool told the crowd the incumbent “means well and has done well, but is working with an expensive, 1950s style bureaucracy.”

Commissioner Claypool said that as head of the Chicago Park District in the 1990s he took over an agency the Civic Federation had branded disfunctional, cut the bureaucracy by 25 percent and put the money saved into restoring parks and creating new programs for kids, all without raising taxes.

President Stroger said he’s been a force for reform of county government – switching from at large to single member district elections for commissioners and increasing the number of women in government.

“I’ve heard some people say ‘he’s a throwback’,” President Stroger said, “I’m a throwback, all right – a throwback for quality and justice in government.”

He said he’d known the challenger a long time. Claypool “even romanced his wife in my office,” President Stroger said.

Perhaps 300 people turned out for the meeting, but only 140 registered members of the party cast ballots for the endorsements.

Despite vocal support from several local officeholders, Gov. Rod Blagojevich failed to win the two-thirds vote needed for endorsement. He drew 54 percent, to 29 percent for former Chicago Alderman Edwin Eisendrath. Seventeen percent voted not to make an endorsment. Mr. Eisendrath spoke at the meeting, but the governor did not attend.

In an interview, State Sen. Jeff Schoenberg, said that he plans to exercise his authority as party committeeman to place the governor’s name on the Evanston party’s sample ballot anyway, as he can do for any candidate who gets over half the vote.

“Gov. Blagojevich just came a few votes short of the very high threshhold the organization has for endorsement,” Sen. Schoenberg said, “He defeated his opponent by a sizable margin, and I view that as reflective of his support.”

Sen. Schoenberg said turnout at the meeting exceeded his expectations for a year in which there’s no presidential race or contested U.S. Senate primary.

“I sense in town an exceptionally high level of dissatisfaction with the Bush administration’s policies,” he added.

“No other governor in the nation has stood up to those ill-advised policies and made such great strides in providing health care, support for education, raising the minimum wage and protecting civil liberties” the way Gov. Blagojevich has, Sen. Schoenberg said.

In other races, the party activists endorsed environmentalist Debra Shore for Metropolitian Water Reclamation Distrct Commissioner with 90 percent of their votes, Thomas J. Dart for Cook County sheriff with 87 percent and Alex Giannoulias for state treasurer with 67 percent.

Related Links:
Full vote results at DPOE web site
Claypool campaign web site and biography on Wikipedia
Shore campaign web site
Stroger biography on Wikipedia

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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