If you had peeked into Quigley's office Tuesday over at the County Building, or looked on the floor of Tuesday's County Board meeting, you might have noticed that someone who is always there was missing. That someone is Quigley's longtime chief of staff, Jennifer Koehler.
Koehler, 36, has been given a two-month leave of absence from her $78,000 job with Quigley to become the deputy campaign manager for Stroger.
With Quigley's blessing? "Yes," said Koehler by phone from her new office at the Stroger for President headquarters at 35th and King Drive.
Would this be the same Mike Quigley who, beginning with his election in 1998, was the loneliest commissioner on the whole board? The guy crying for reform from a back bench? The lone vote for the longest time on cutting the bloated budget and confronting the endless corruption?
Yes indeed. It's the same Mike Quigley who took one for the team, squashing his own ambitions to run for County Board president this year so that fellow Commissioner Forrest Claypool could go head to head with incumbent President John Stroger. We all know the sorry storyline from there, don't we?
Ald. Stroger is now trying to be a forward looking progressive. In other words he's trying to change his image from that of being a machine annointed candidate that just so happen to be anointed under unusual circumstances. Check this out...
Quigley is traveling quite a different road. By lending Stroger his chief of staff, Quigley says he is taking the candidate at his word that "he is going to move the county in a different direction." Rather than just endorse Stroger, which Quigley readily admits would look "ridiculous," he has instead sent him "the best and brightest" of his staff, "one of the chief architects" of Quigley's reform agenda. Stroger, he says, has already adopted their proposal to install a new inspector general at the county, one with more independence and power.
Koehler, an attorney and a longtime activist for the National Organization for Women, argues that the social issues, including full access to abortion and family planning at county hospitals as well as a widening of gay and lesbian rights, are the kinds of things that separate Stroger's "progressive" agenda from the more conservative Peraica.
"Todd," said Koehler Tuesday, "is committed that things are fair for working minorities, for gays and lesbians and for women."
But for the moment, forgive me, I'm still struggling with the transformation of Todd Stroger from rubber stamp-political-progeny to forward-thinking-progressive. This might be a better "Extreme Makeover" show than any I've seen on TV.
I must admit though that I like the way Stroger's opponent Cook County Commissioner Tony Peraica sees the state of Cook County...
Peraica, who has promised to enforce "the law of the land," including Roe vs. Wade, is personally opposed to abortion and did not vote for a domestic partnership registry. But he argues these are not major crises looming before the county, that corruption and taxes are the crucial issues of the day.
We'll have to see but this will prove to be an interesting election.