Late Fundraising, TV Ads Boosted Preckwinkle

Suntimes

February 4, 2010
BY Fran Spielman and Lisa Donovan

Powerful message shapers and deep-pocketed supporters – including a few pals of Chicago Mayor Richard Daley – helped orchestrate Ald. Toni Preckwinkle’s victory in the Democratic primary for Cook County Board president.

It all coalesced into an effective television advertising campaign – most notably a commercial showing her shaking hands with a penny-pinching Benjamin Franklin – that proved pivotal in transforming Preckwinkle’s public image. She went from being a stern-faced schoolteacher to the smiling approachable woman next door.

“The knock on me is that I’m humorless,” the 61-year-old former high school history teacher said Wednesday.

“If you’re tagged as a policy wonk, you have to convince people you’re a human being. So I think the ads were designed to give people a sense of who I was and my experience and in broad outlines what I plan to do with the county.”

Democratic strategist Ken Snyder, a former protege of David Axelrod, designed the Preckwinkle commercials. Snyder has worked on the campaigns of Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez and, ironically, the late Cook County Board President John Stroger.

Hailing from the land of Benjamin Franklin, Philadelphia, Snyder said Franklin seemed to be a natural for the campaign.

“You’re looking at the history of the sales tax, and you’re looking at her as a history teacher, and you try to tie it all together,” said Snyder, referring to the unpopular penny-on-the-dollar sales tax increase that county board President Todd Stroger championed.
Preckwinkle supporter Ald. Ed Smith (28th) said the image metamorphosis – and Preckwinkle’s fund-raising prowess – helped turn a race that could easily have been close into a cakewalk.

Daley’s former chief of staff Lori Healey and Daley pal Patrick Ryan – both of whom were on the committee trying to bring the 2016 Olympics to Chicago – kicked in $750 and $15,000, respectively, to Preckwinkle’s campaign.

The mayor “didn’t throw any money her way, but friends of Rich were helpful to her,” a mayoral confidante said. “Rich, from the beginning, was desirous of her getting in and thought she could win, and a lot of people helped her. If people asked him, he told them they should help her.”

Those late-in-the-campaign contributions helped pay for the $825,000 television ad campaign.
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