In politics, there are no permanent friends or enemies.
Toni Preckwinkle’s endorsement of Will Burns as her successor on the City Council, should she be elected county board president, is a 180-degree turnaround from the last time Burns sought her support for political office.
“Will is someone who I’ve held in high regard for a long time,” Preckwinkle told the Hyde Park Herald. “I think he’s going to be a real asset.”
Preckwinkle didn’t always hold Burns in such high regard. In 2004, Barack Obama had just been elected to the U.S. Senate, and he wanted Burns -- a former student and aide -- to take his state senate seat. As 4th Ward committeeman, Preckwinkle controlled a significant amount of the votes necessary to name a replacement.
But Preckwinkle was peeved with Obama. She had backed every one of his political campaigns -- even his disastrous run for Congress against Bobby Rush -- and he had given her buppkus in return. As a state senator, Obama had spent most of his member initiative money -- a goodie fund that legislators can use to fund projects in their districts -- over in the 17th Ward. He was trying to impress Ald. Terry Peterson, who was close to Mayor Daley, an ally Obama coveted for his U.S. Senate race. Preckwinkle begged Obama for money to move a church that was standing in the way of a proposed pedestrian overpass across Lake Shore Drive. Can’t afford it, Obama claimed.
So when Obama came to Preckwinkle after the Senate election and asked her to appoint Burns, she shot him down. Working with 5th Ward committeeman Leslie Hairston, Preckwinkle installed Kwame Raoul, a Hyde Park lawyer who still holds the seat.
Burns eventually made it to the state legislature on his own. In 2008, he was elected to the House of Representatives, for the district that includes Preckwinkle’s 4th Ward. Burns turned out be more generous than his mentor, Obama. Once he got to Springfield, he found the money Preckwinkle needed to move that church.
No wonder she now holds him in such high regard.