Toni Preckwinkle on Running for Mayor: ‘I'm Not Looking for My Next Job'

The Cook County Board boss is the epitome of of a poker-faced politician

With Mayor Rahm Emanuel up for re-election next year, City Hall has been buzzing about a possible challenge from Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle.

Preckwinkle's supporters are urging her to run in February 2015, while Chicago's two major newspapers grease their wheels, angling for a big, headline-making fight.

Despite all the build-up, Preckwinkle remains poker-faced and politician-like, sticking to her talking points in an interview for RealClearPolitics' "Changing Lanes" web series.

"I'm running for re-election for the job I got," she reiterates. "I was alderman for 19 years. I didn't look at my aldermanic job as a platform to run for something else. I ran for alderman because I wanted to be alderman. And I worked hard at that job and I was elected by the good people of the fourth ward to it five times."

"I'm not looking for my next job. I'm trying to figure out how I can do well in the job I've got. So that's been my focus and I still got a long to-do list," she says, going on to repeat the  "long to-do list" line -- one of her favorites -- amid further grilling by RealClear's Tom Bevan.

Indeed, a mayoral campaign was far from Preckwinkle's mind this week. The Chicago Democrat advanced her Cook County pension deal through the Senate, which voted 36-16 on Tuesday for her pitch to reduce benefits and raise the retirement age for government employees while extending health care benefits for retired workers.

The bill proposes that an extra $147 million be poured into the county's ailing pension system -- considered the worst-funded in the nation  -- but Preckwinkle did not spell how she would raise the money to finance the effort. The county would be "very creative," she said while in Springfield, noting that "everything is on the table."

Unlike Emanuel, for whom she barely conceals her dislike, Preckwinkle seems aware that uttering the T-word-for-taxes too soon could block her legislative agenda and quite possibly her odds of defeating Emanuel -- one of the best-funded mayors in the nation -- should she cave to popular demand and throw her hat in the ring.

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