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Toni Preckwinkle Steps Out



    Toni Preckwinkle Steps Out
    In this photo taken Feb. 5, 2010, Chicago Alderman Toni Preckwinkle, the Democratic nominee for Cook County board president, poses in her Chicago office. Illinois' primary on Feb. 2 for the board president was a referendum on reform: Preckwinkle trounced incumbent Todd Stroger, ending an era for a family that's been in charge for nearly 16 years and haunted by hiring scandals, nepotism and patronage. Candidates are vowing to root out Cook County corruption, but Preckwinkle, considered the frontrunner for the post, says it won't be easy and it's not going to be instantaneous. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

    Admit it, political junkies: You’ve always wanted to see Alderman Toni Preckwinkle get her groove on.

    When Preckwinkle talks about ending patronage in the Cook County Hospitals or reducing the county tax rate, you’re really thinking, “What kind of dance moves does this woman have?”

    Unfortunately, Preckwinkle has never busted out on the City Council floor. So Thursday night, Ward Room went to Preckwinkle’s “Steppin' to Victory” party at the Alhambra Palace, hoping to see Chicago’s most serious alderman do the cha-cha slide.

    After spending the evening at the fund-raiser, this blogger was left wanting. The Cook County Board President nominee didn't shimmy, shake, slide or step once.

    All the elements were in place for Preckwinckle to bust a move or two.  Sam Chatman, host of Channel 19's "Can I Step With You?" deejayed the event, and the room was buzzing with dance energy.

    The candidate's evening started out gracefully, enough. Chatman played McFadden and Whitehead’s “Ain’t No Stopping Us Now” as the Preckwinkle took to the podium to greet her guests. She looked bashful and restrained as she stood alongside her lanky husband, Zeus, and told the crowd that she'd raised $1.6 million for the primary, but needed more because she still had "a long way to go" before the November election.

    Then the steppin' started.

    “If you’re not stepping, please remove yourself from the dance floor,” a woman announced, and the steppers started with a line dance, then began slow dancing in couples.

    Preckwinkle slinked away from the action, to mingle with non-dancing contributors.

    “I have two left feet ...” Preckwinkle said before the event started.

    Maybe its her taste in music.

    “I’m a big Duke Ellington fan, but Duke Ellington isn’t exactly a stepper," Preckwinkle said. "I also like Aaron Copland. ‘Fanfare for the Common Man.’”


    Chatman, who played Marvin Gaye, Jeffrey, the Temptations, et. al. confirmed that Preckwinkle's favorite standard bearers were not made for steppin'.

    “Duke Ellington?” Chatham said, making a face. “No, no. Not the right beat.”

    He offered to give Preckwinkle some instruction, on what he called "the hottest thing in the African American community."

    “Steppin’ is ballroom dancing with a little soul,” Chatman, who was dressed in a bright yellow suit, explained. “We’re stepping all over the world. I just got back from Atlanta.”

    Before Preckwinkle left, he gave her an instructional DVD, to teach her steppin' moves.

    “Next time she does one of these,” he promised, “she’ll be ready.”

    Preckwinkle was wearing her usual drab blouse and skirt. Not a steppin' outfit. Unfortunately for dance fans, Preckwinkle left at 8:30, before ever taking the floor.

    “She’s had a long day,” explained her press secretary, Jessey Neves. Just not a long day of steppin'.