Toni Preckwinkle

Preckwinkle Defeats Fioretti for Cook County Board President

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle won the Democratic primary to retain her position on Tuesday, according to unofficial results, staving off former Ald. Bob Fioretti's challenge in an election that served in part as a referendum on her ill-fated soda tax.

Preckwinkle won 61 percent of the vote, with 97 percent of precincts reporting as of 11:13 p.m., cruising to an easy victory despite tanking approval ratings following the passage and subsequent repeal of the county's sweetened beverage tax in 2017.

Once thought to be the only candidate who could take on Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and win, Preckwinkle's support was under water after championing the tax as a health initiative that would double as a source of badly-needed revenue.

The massively unpopular tax, which charged a penny per ounce on sweetened beverages including soda, Gatorade and more, was enacted in 2017 to balance the county budget and, according to Preckwinkle, stave off massive social service cuts.

The tax fueled public outcry from shoppers and business owners across the county, ultimately surviving less than two months before being repealed by a vote of 15 to 2, and was phased out in December 2017.

That revolt left Preckwinkle with a $200 million budget shortfall, hundreds of layoffs and  sparked a challenge from Fioretti, who announced plans to take her on less than a month after its repeal.

After the 2015 redistricting map pushed him outside the boundaries of the 2nd Ward that he had represented since 2007, Fioretti decided instead to run for Chicago mayor.

He eventually dropped out and later endorsed Mayor Rahm Emanuel's re-election bid ahead of the runoff vote against Jesus "Chuy" Garcia.

Later that year, Fioretti launched an unsuccessful campaign for state Senate, looking to unseat incumbent Democrat Sen. Patricia Van Pelt in the 5th District encompassing parts of Chicago's North and West Sides.

Voters rejected his latest campaign, choosing instead to give Preckwinkle another chance despite Fioretti's promise to freeze tax hikes for four years should he defeat her.

Polling showed Preckwinkle remaining the favorite through Election Day, and she got a boost from longtime friend former President Barack Obama when he endorsed her just days before voters cast their ballots.

Still, given the meteoric failure of the soda tax, Preckwinkle was at her most vulnerable and faced her toughest reelection battle yet.

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