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Cook County Board Fri Dec 11 2009

Tribune Poll Analysis: Cook County Board President

The Chicago Tribune's poll of Cook County voters' attitudes to the Democratic primary candidates has Dorothy Brown with a lead over three other candidates. The incumbent, Todd Stroger, is in third place, but with the highest unfavorable rating of any of the candidates by far.

The breakdown of support is Brown-Preckwinkle-Stroger-O'Brien, at 29%-20%-14%-11%, with "Other" at 2% and 24% undecided.

That doesn't tell the whole story, however. Dorothy Brown's name recognition is only slightly behind that of Stroger; where 98% of voters recognized Stroger, 91% recognized Brown.

Alderman Toni Preckwinkle comes in third in name recognition, with 62% of voters expressing some familiarity with her. Given that a quarter of voters are still undecided, she has plenty of room to expand her support. I think that Water Reclamation Board chief Terry O'Brien simply has too much baggage--at least, the media has fixated on his baggage too much--to give him the momentum pick up the significant amount of support he'd need to catch up.

Brown has several advantages with only eight weeks left: the name recognition, the fact that voters county-wide have elected her several times, and the fact that she's not Todd Stroger. Her unfavorability is fairly low, too--18%. Also, she has consistent support from both white and black voters. She is out front right now; she can win if she can hold onto her support.

Nevertheless, Alderman Preckwinkle has to be happy with where she's at, if not wholly satisfied. Nine percent is still quite a bit to make up in eight weeks, but given that she was known to just over half of suburban voters and her favorable/unfavorable ratio is the best among all candidates, her prospects once full media attention turns on the race are good.

But remember: that 24% of voters will vote. Of that 24%, many more are familiar with Dorothy Brown than Toni Preckwinkle, and have not decided they will vote for her: so in a sense Ms. Brown needs to win them back. Not only this, but most of the undecideds are white suburban voters. Preckwinkle and Brown perform practically identically among white voters, but, suburban voters in particular don't know Preckwinkle, and they know Brown. So these are voters that the Clerk has already "lost" to some degree.

Here's a potential problem for Preckwinkle and an advantage for Brown: will suburban voters who came over to the Democrats over the last couple cycles be pulling GOP ballots in the primary? Even only a few thousand--say, in the northwest and southwest suburban townships--could be the difference: the group with the most potential for Preckwinkle to widen her support could shrink. The lack of a competitive Republican Senate primary may limit that number, but gubernatorial primary may bring some of them back. Between 2002 and 2006 (both gubernatorial years) Republican share of the primary vote in Cook County declined 2%. If even those 2% were to go back to the GOP, that could be as many as 8,000 votes. If the Alderman wants to make up 9%, those potential votes could matter.

Black voters are highly represented in the Democratic primary in Cook County. But Stroger, whose dismal support among whites and suburban voters and high unfavorable rating make him a longshot, has nearly identical support among black voters to Brown. So while there doesn't seem to be a chance that "splitting the black vote" will lead to a white Board President, Stroger's presence--a function of his family political dynasty more than race--could be bad for the Clerk. Brown has a significant advantage among black voters over Preckwinkle--30% to 17%. If Stroger's supporters were "released" by his dropping out of the race--or failing to campaign--Brown could be considerably strengthened.

But, again: black voters know Dorothy Brown, to the tune of 94%. That number for Preckwinkle is 67%.

Real quick: why did so many people believe that white voters would all vote for Terry O'Brien just because he's white? For the whole "splitting the black vote" canard to make sense, you would have to assume that a huge supermajority of white voters would vote for Terry O'Brien just because he's a white guy. At this level, I think both white and black voters have proved that race is much less important than any number of factors, including viability. White voters routinely voted for John Stroger, and black voters elect the hell out of Mayor Daley.

Anyway, the take aways may be that, as of now, the race has come down to Toni Preckwinkle and Dorothy Brown; that there will be no racially-aligned "splitting of the vote"; and that Toni Preckwinkle has nowhere to go but up--the question is, can she ascend quickly enough to win?

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sheila / December 12, 2009 5:53 PM

good lord, please let Toni Preckwinkle win. We cannot exchange crooked Stroger for liar Brown. I worked for her and she is the most arrogant(required staff to call her "Madame Clerk" - oh puhleeze)and deceitful (sat across a table from her while she was under oath in a deposition and she lied through her teeth without blinkin an eye!)

W / December 13, 2009 5:08 PM

Sheila, do you really know Anthony (Toni) Preckwinkle? I really don't think you do.

Alderman Preckwinkle has her own problems, with Rezko, and may be indicted. Rezko was her top fundraier. Most of the crimes Rezko admitted to were in her ward, which she knew, or should have known about. Think of the hundreds of thousands of dollars Prekwinkle has raised. She owes a lot of favors to special interest groups and organizations.

Preckwinkle is not known out side of her ward. And, a name like Preckwinkle can not energize the African-American base, a must in Cook County politics. I am an African-American, and I for sure would not vote for an unknown like Preckwinkle. She has never managed anything. Her resume is bland.

Bottom line - Preckwinkle can't win and will not win. The polls show who the people of Cook County want. Preckwinkle is hoping to pull off an Obama type victory. The difference between an Obama name and a Preckwinkle name to blacks is very obvious that Preckwinkle is married to a white man, where Obama married black. The Preckwinkle name is a sure turn off to Blacks.

Dorothy Brown, although she has her issues, has a track record of managing thousands of employees. She has done a wonderful job as clerk of the circuit court. The clerks office was a mess when she took it over. She has the education (Masters in Business Finance) that voters weigh highly on. She is also well liked among whites county-wide. She is an attorney. Dorothy Brown also has the team in Cook County to defeat Preckwinkle. Remember, Dorothy Brown has received millions of votes each time running for County office. These voters are the same voters who will be casting votes in this coming primary.

p / December 15, 2009 4:22 PM

I am a white voter who was an Obama voter who routinely votes with black candidates.I am sick of race being an issue already in this campaign. I personaly am an O'Brien suporter but not because he is white...
I think Preckwinkle is a great alderman but lacks executive experience. Her liberal agenda sounds good in an ideal world, but is just unreasonable right now.
I think the county needs O'Brien's fiscally responsible agenda to offset all the easy targets the GOP takes (tax-and-spend, patronage, etc.)
If O'Brien doesn't win the GOP has an actual shot at taking this seat for the first time in history. O'Brien's msg is the only one with crossover appeal that can preserve the services that cook county has. And quite frankly after this Stroger administration he is just what the doctor ordered to restore sanity.

lisa / December 29, 2009 10:22 PM

Dorothy Brown, Todd Stroger and Terrence O'brien can't stay out of media spotlight. What major improvements has Brown, Stroger or O'brien accomplished since holding office. Dorothy Brown is quick to brag about millions of dollars she saved or come up with . When someone has the answer feel free to share.

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