It’s a battle that some consider unwinnable, but Cook County Commissioner Tony Peraica (R-Riverside) plans to prove those doubters wrong.
Peraica will take his first step toward doing just that on Saturday morning when he officially announces his candidacy for Cook County Board president at the Sheraton Hotel in downtown Chicago.
He is expected to be joined by a number of local and state officials, Cook County GOP township and ward committeemen and “a few Democrats.”
“It seems like every time I go to do something, someone is always saying it can’t be done,” said Peraica, a Croatian immigrant. “When I came to this country as an immigrant, I was told I couldn’t succeed in school.
“I went to college and they told me I couldn’t do it. I graduated in three years, and then went to law school. They told me I couldn’t perform at that level, because of my accent. I finished in three years. My background has prepared me for this challenge.”
It is still uncertain whether incumbent Democrat Board President John Stroger will run for a fourth term. The 76-year-old is expected to make a decision in the coming weeks.
“I believe he is going to run,” Peraica said. “If he doesn’t run, there is a chance as many as 10 Democrats may run, and that could be bloody. John is a great guy, but he is not in good health. The party wants him to run for control purposes. They want him to get reelected and then resign so they still have control.”
But one thing that is very clear is the fact it’s been close to four decades since the GOP has held the position of board president.
Peraica realizes that he can’t change history, but he can play a big role in the future.
“This county needs forthright communication with the voters,” Peraica said. “It’s time to return to democracy. Our county has spent more than $300 billion for democracy in Iraq, but we don’t have that right here in Cook County.
“It’s time to stop increasing taxes and giving contracts to friends. This county has been taxed more than $600 million in recent years. It’s time for that to stop.”
There is talk that Liz Gorman (R-Orland Park), who is a first-term County Commissioner with Peraica, also will run. Gorman, however, has not made an official decision one way or the other yet.
“If she runs, that will be better for the party,” Peraica said. “It will bring more attention to the party.”
Peraica, along with a cadre of reform candidates on the County Board, has been a thorn in Stroger’s side since being elected. Peraica’s bipartisan reform movement on the board has led to big budget concessions from Stroger in recent months.
“We’ve seen 27,000 people move out of Cook County since 2000,” Peraica said.
“They are moving because of the taxes. We need the business community to stand up and say enough. They have been taxed to death. It’s getting to the point where we are taxing on taxes. Enough is enough.”