State Senator Don Harmon (39th) prevented the nomination of Todd Stroger to replace his father John as Democratic candidate for Cook County Board president from becoming unanimous in a hearing on Tuesday, July 18.
Harmon, Oak Park’s Democratic committeeman, voted for Rep. Danny Davis, who won 23 percent of the weighted vote of city and suburban committeemen, with the younger Stroger taking the remaining 77 percent.
Harmon said he voted for Davis because “he would represent both folks who voted for John Stroger and folks who voted for Forrest Claypool,” referring to the reform-minded challenger to the elder Stroger in the March 21 primary. Davis, said Harmon, “would bring a much-needed dose of reform without jeopardizing the services the county provides.”
The state senator’s vote could prove costly. The central committee does not like dissent, he said, and “of course” there was pressure on him from Stroger supporters. “I’m sure a pound of flesh will be extracted at some point, but it was the right thing to do,” he said.
Harmon said that state Sen. Jeff Schoenberg was right to compare the process of appointing a successor to John Stroger to a professional wresting match. “We know who the winner is, and then we have to construct a plot line around it,” Harmon said. “Voters perceived it as a sham process.”
Despite his reservations, Harmon called Todd Stroger “a very good man.” He said he was confident the younger Stroger would “look very carefully at the county budget and payroll and be a good steward of taxpayer dollars.” County services can be provided more efficiently and effectively, Harmon said.
But he cautioned that balance is important when reforming. “We need to cut costs where we can, but we also need to recognize the fundamental services the county provides. It is the central provider of health services to poor folks.”
The Democrat said he thinks Tony Peraica, Todd Stroger’s Republican opponent, would go too far in slashing costs. “Peraica would cut into the bone,” he said. “I think that’s irresponsible and dangerous.”
Harmon was cautiously optimistic about Stroger’s chances to win in November. “If the election were held tomorrow, it would be a close election,” he said. “But as more folks see who Todd Stroger is and more folks see that Tony Peraica is a staunch conservative,” he said, “the better Stroger’s chances will be.”