Todd Stroger, the Democratic candidate for Cook County Board President, met with GLBT community leaders Oct. 4, for a candid Q&A session about how he will work with the community and address GLBT issues if elected. [ See the comprehensive Windy City Times Election Guide at www.WindyCityMediaGroup.com, Nov. 1 edition; results in the Nov. 8 edition. ]
On the upper floor of Ann Sather on Belmont, community leaders, representing organizations such as Lambda Legal, Equality Illinois, the Stonewall Democrats, AIDS Foundation of Chicago, Chicago House, and many others, gathered around the candidate as he explained that he is and always has been working for GLBT issues.
Ald. Tom Tunney, who hosted the event, introduced Stroger by saying, 'The obvious choice is clear. He will not be just another Stroger, but he'll be of a new generation of Strogers.' Tunney also called the candidate a 'valuable' ally to the community, as well as a 'friend, mentor and supporter.'
During the meeting, Stroger alluded to voters' desire to get rid of corruption at the county level, stressing the importance of making sure that commissioners know that their actions impact the entire system, and ensuring that every cent spent will be justified.
However, when asked by the Stonewall Democrats how he differs from his father, Stroger responded by saying that he is tech-savvy, and from a different era. He veered from discussing allegations of corruption under his father's leadership, or his proposal to create an Office of an Independent Inspector General to deter and prevent waste and mismanagement of funds in county government.
During the primaries, GLBT-heavy wards tended to vote for Forrest Claypool, a Democratic reform candidate who was not only a friend of the community, but a strong advocate of stopping corruption. Some GLBT leaders expressed to Windy City Times that they fear gay voters will choose Republican reform candidate Tony Peraica, even though he has a record of being anti-gay.
'It's a hard task, but I think most people understand there're going to be some changes in government,' Stroger said.
Also important to the candidate is improving the efficiency of local government. He said he will utilize his relationships with other departments to help improve the system so it works better for residents of Cook County.
In response to questions regarding AIDS funding and issues, Stroger replied, 'The healthcare system is very important to me. I understand how devastating [ health issues ] can be.'
Most importantly, Stroger made it known that he will remain a strong ally to the GLBT community, and will also help dissolve the wedge between the African-American and GLBT community by being open about where he stands.
'I let people know who I am. I try to see people as people, and I'm not afraid to tell people what I'm all about.'
'I understand what it's like when people say, 'Hey, that guy is different and throw rocks at him.' I'm not afraid to tell anyone … including [ Rev. James ] Meeks and [ Minister Louis ] Farrakhan [ my beliefs. ] They'll have to take me as I am.'
Stroger promised that he will continue to hold meetings with various communities, including GLBTs, to discuss and address important issues throughout his candidacy and if he is elected into office.