Sometimes, it’s the little things that remind us of a politician’s true character.
For Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, it was her suggestion once again on Thursday that she doesn't support business as usual in Chicago politics.
That’s because it was business as usual in Chicago politics that made Preckwinkle have to state her opposition to two convicted felons who are seeking seats on the Cook County Board.
Their names are familiar to those who follow the news around these parts. Al Sanchez is the former Chicago Streets and Sanitation Commissioner under former Mayor Daley who was convicted on federal charges of rigging city hiring for political patronage.
Isaac “Ike” Carothers is the ex-alderman from Chicago’s West Side who plead guilty to bribery and tax fraud in 2010. He admitted to backing a zoning change in exchange for $40,000 in work at his home before being sentenced to 28 months in prison.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, both are seeking to rebuild their political careers at the county level, since the law says felons can't run for various city offices but can run for county and state positions.
That couldn't have made Preckwinkle happy. Since coming into office as County Board President in 2010, she’s worked diligently to erase the stench of corruption that has hung around the County Board for decades, most recently in the form of former president Todd Stroger.
It was Stroger, you recall, who replaced his father after one of the more audacious backroom deals in Chicago political history, and whose term in office was marked by waste, mismanagement, patronage and corruption.
That’s not to say Preckwinkle’s perfect, or anything. She’s had her moments. Like her involvement in the Metra retirement scandal. Or her unwillingness to stand up to Cook County Assessor and Democratic Party boss Joe Berrios.
But if she was truly any sort of old school, go-along, get-along Chicago style politician, she would have greeted news of Sanchez and Carothers seeking Board seats with a shrug and an attitude that said something like “Who am I to judge?”
That’s how things are done politically in this town. Politics in Chicago is made up of lifelong professionals whose first goal is to stay in office and whose second goal is to watch each other’s backs.
After all, the first rule in Chicago politics is Don't Get Caught. The second is Don't Condemn Those Who Do.
When Sanchez and Carothers showed up at her door, to her credit, Preckwinkle has seemingly answered with a curt “Not Interested”.
In Chicago, that passes for good government. And worthy of a moment of praise.