Cook County Board President Todd Stroger picked up a key endorsement today, with a major coalition of Chicago religious leaders throwing their support behind his reelection.
The Concerned Clergy for a Better Chicagoland announced it would back Stroger Tuesday at Quinn Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church, 2401 S. Wabash.
The decision is the culmination of a weeks-long evaluation of the candidates by black religious leaders. And it comes at a crucial time for Stroger: a Tribune/WGN poll conducted last month shows his approval at an anemic 10 percent.
Despite this discouraging electoral picture, the Concerned Clergy members jubilantly proclaimed their support for the incumbent.
“It is a consensus of this house that Todd Stroger will receive our support as clergy of Chicago and Cook County,” said Bishop Cody Marshall of Englewood’s Freedom Temple Church of God, to applause.
Indeed, unity seemed to be the prevailing theme of the gathering. Scores of ministers sat together on stage and most of the speakers offered similar comments regarding the need for Chicago black churches to coalesce behind Stroger.
This spirit of solidarity peaked when the ministers and crowd erupted into a chant of “You da man!” as Stroger walked into the church.
President Stroger touted his achievements in health care and fiscal matters to the reverends.
“I’ve been able to balance three budgets. We haven’t increased the spending. We used those same dollars that we had yesterday to pay the bills today,” he said.
Stroger’s pitch convinced Pastor Steve Jones, president of the Baptist Pastors Conference of Chicago and Vicinity.
Jones praised Stroger for working to keep Provident and Oak Forest hospitals, two of the county’s public health care facilities, open and stressed the need for stability amid a tumultuous economy.
“We don’t need to be changing things at this time,” Jones said.
Some of Stroger’s challengers were quick to respond to the announcement Tuesday.
Candidate Toni Preckwinkle, the alderman of the 4th Ward, stressed in a statement the race for board president was about reaching out to all of Cook County’s communities.
“The decision is rooted in the ministers’ desire to choose one African-American candidate, rather than the four currently running, to prevent splitting the African-American vote,” Preckwinkle’s statement said. “However, the President of Cook County has to represent the whole of Cook County, not just one community. This isn’t just a race for African-Americans, it’s a race for County Board President.
Clerk of the Circuit Court Dorothy Brown is also in the running.
Brown’s campaign manager released the following statement regarding Quinn Chapel meeting:
“We have the highest respect for the religious leaders of Cook County and they certainly have a right to endorse whoever they so desire, because America is a great democracy. We will continue to tell voters about Dorothy Brown’s proven track record, of reform, fiscal responsibility and bringing innovative solutions to the problems of Cook County.”