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Jesus ‘Chuy’ Garcia Mulling Bid for Cook County Clerk

David Orr’s announcement that he would not seek another term as Cook County Clerk has set off speculation to determine who might replace him. Orr, who is a self-described reform-styled progressive, has held the post since 1991, after a brief stint taking over for Harold Washington as Chicago Mayor in 1987.

Democratic sources tell Chicago Tonight that Cook County Commissioner Jesus “Chuy” Garcia is mulling a run for the post, contingent on whether he can garner enough Democratic support.

Cook County Recorder of Deeds Karen Yarbrough has already declared her intention to run for the office and made her case to Democratic party insiders. But Yarbrough has been dogged by questions of patronage in her office, which is under federal hiring oversight thanks to a lawsuit from prominent anti-patronage attorney Michael Shakman.

“She’s a 1980’s style politician, close to the machine,” said one Democratic insider who is supportive of Garcia.

When reached by phone, Garcia told Chicago Tonight that he was “taken by surprise,” at the 72-year-old Orr’s decision to call it a career.

“I haven’t ruled it out,” Garcia said. “But [Orr’s announcement] happened just 24 hours ago. I haven’t had a chance to think it through, but I’ll give it another look.”

Garcia ran for mayor in 2015 and pushed Rahm Emanuel into a runoff, before eventually losing. But he galvanized a significant progressive movement in the Democratic base that has been opposed to Emanuel, and is not pleased with his recent handling of the police department in the fallout of the Laquan McDonald scandal.

Garcia and close ally, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, recently called on the mayor to seek out federal oversight of police reform, despite the mayor’s insistence that he has spearheaded significant changes to the system. A run for Cook County Clerk would almost certainly rule out another run for mayor for Garcia.

“That’s part of the calculation I have to make,” Garcia said, noting that his interest in the clerk’s office would be “continuing down the road to reform and modernization in Cook County, and building multi-racial coalitions, as I’ve always tried to do.”

Follow Paris Schutz on Twitter: @paschutz

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