Come Aug. 4, Congressman Danny K. Davis (D-7th) will only circulate nominating petitions for the office of Cook County board president.
Davis announced early in July the formation of an exploratory committee to examine a possible run for that job. But in an interview with the Austin Weekly News, Davis noted the committee was just a formality and that he is a contender for Todd Stroger’s job.
“I am running for president of the Cook County Board,” said Davis, who has already sunk up to $40,000 into his bid for county board president. He spent $20,000 on a poll conducted two months ago that showed Davis had a strong favorable rating out of five possible candidates, including Stroger.
“This is serious business,” he said. “Politics is serious business. It is not the play stuff that some people make it out to be.”
Davis said he would not seek re-election as representative of the 7th Congressional District, since he cannot circulate petitions for both offices. The election for president of the county board will be in November 2010. He said he would let his congressional term expire at the end of that year. The county board president usually takes office on Dec. 1.
“My term in congress will not expire until the end of December 2010, and that is when I will give up my office,” he said.
While many have questioned why Davis would give up a plum position to serve as county board president, he said the move is about serving differently. Davis was first elected congressman in 1996, serving six terms. Before that, he served six years as a Cook County commissioner. He also served for 11 years as alderman of the 29th Ward.
Davis said he wanted to serve in an executive capacity. As a member of Congress, Davis said he is one of 435 representatives while “there is only one president of the Cook County Board.”
“As the chief executive over a county of 5 million people, you have an enormous responsibility,” Davis said. “It is not a matter of serving better. It is a matter of serving differently.”
Holding an executive office, he added, requires more accountability. In Congress, blame for a failed bill goes across the board. With the Cook County Board, it squarely falls on the president’s head.
“It is easier, quite frankly, being a legislator than it is being a chief executive,” Davis said.
Davis’ desire to serve differently has opened the floodgates of potential replacement candidates. Among the names surfacing are state Rep. LaShawn Ford (D-8th), state Sen. Don Harmon (D-39th), Ald. Ed Smith (28th), state Rep. Annazette Collins (D-10th), state Sen. Rickey Hendon (D-5th), Richard Boykin and Darlena Barnett.
While Davis believes his soon-to-be former seat may see up to nine or 10 possible candidates, he said “everybody talking about running won’t necessarily run.”
Calls placed to Hendon and Collins were not returned by deadline, but Smith was mum on whether he would seek Davis’ seat.
“People are talking trying to get me into the race, but I have not said one way or the other, and I will be in that position for some time,” Smith said.
When asked if the district could elect a non-black representative, Davis said the district still has a majority black population, although the white population is slowing increasing. According to recent census data, the 7th Congressional District is 34 percent white, 59 percent black, 4 percent Asian and 7 percent Hispanic.
“I think the people would elect whom ever they consider to be the best candidate,” Davis added.
When asked if he had spoken to any of his potential county board opponents, Davis said he has spoken to Stroger, Cook County Commissioner Larry Suffredin, Chicago Ald. Toni Preckwinkle (4th) and Circuit Court Clerk Dorothy Brown.
Without elaborating, Davis said he discussed party unity and having a “civil discourse,” because he added his run “is not personal at all.”