The race for the Cook County Board Presidency just got a little more crowded.
Cook County Circuit Court Clerk Dorothy Brown announced Friday that she was entering the fray, ending weeks of speculation about whether she would challenge embattled incumbent Todd Stroger for the county's top job.
"The time is right for a Board President with a proven track record of saving taxpayers money, reforming county government and finding innovative solutions to our problems," Brown said in a press release. "We need a leader who will step up and get our fiscal house in order."
Brown adds her name to a field that includes both Stroger and Ald. Toni Preckwinkle (4th), and is expected to grow in the coming weeks after Commissioner Forrest Claypool, who narrowly lost a bitter primary to Todd Stroger's father three years ago and was considered the front-runner this time around, announced last week that he would not be running.
Brown commissioned a poll before Claypool pulled out that found she had higher name recognition than him and Preckwinkle.
The phone survey, conducted April 21-22 by Fako & Associates, polled 295 likely 2010 Cook County Democratic primary voters. Among respondents who knew all four potential candidates, Brown got 30 percent of the vote, compared with Preckwinkle at 10 percent and Stroger at 8 percent. She trailed only Claypool, who got 33 percent.
Brown claimed Claypool's decision not to run had "absolutely no effect" on her decision to enter the race.
The same poll found Stroger's job performance ratings as 82 percent negative, with three-fourths of African Americans and eight of 10 undecided potential voters rating his performance negatively.
"I wouldn't be running if I did not think [Stroger] had done an ineffective job as board president," Brown told the Huffington Post. "I feel he's very vulnerable."
Brown was first elected to clerk of the circuit court in 2000 and has twice won re-election. She lost a bid to unseat Mayor Richard Daley in 2007 and has come under criticism for accepting cash gifts from employees. Brown abruptly ended the practice, which is legal, earlier this month when informed about a pending Tribune story.
In her press release, Brown said she spoke out against the controversial Cook County sales tax increase, but as the Tribune's Hal Dardick notes, she has declined to comment publicly on it until now.
"At the time I indicated that I did come out against the tax increase, but I didn't speak out against it since then because I didn't have control of that money," Brown said. "Now that I'm running for board president, I spoke up."
Several city and county officials are considering entering the race, including Sheriff Tom Dart, County Commissioner Larry Suffredin and Assessor James Houlihan. U.S. Rep. Danny Davis is polling for a potential run and Metropolitan Water Reclamation District President Terrence O'Brien told Crain's Greg Hinz that he is considering challenging Stroger, as well.
Brown touted her record of increasing revenue in the circuit court, her background in education and finance, and the fact that she's run county-wide three times and gotten more than 1 million votes as strengths against possible opponents.
"What differentiates me," Brown said, "is we have been able to raise more revenue than we've spent and bring people into our office who are qualified for the positions. We need new ideas, not new taxes."