Cronin won’t run again for DuPage County Board chairman, but ‘not going anywhere’

DuPage County Board Chairman Dan Cronin will step aside next year rather than seek a fourth term, but the Republican stalwart won’t rule out running for another elected office.

Cronin announced his decision to end his tenure during a Tuesday county board meeting.

Cronin’s departure and redistricting -- all 18 county board seats will be up for election in 2022 -- continue to shake up the political landscape in DuPage, once a conservative bedrock. Democrats last year cemented their party’s first board majority since the Great Depression.

Cronin stresses that he’s not bowing out because of Democratic control of the board. The Elmhurst attorney said he remains “up to the task” of reaching across the aisle, highlighting his consensus-driven, transactional political style, though he’s expressed frustration with partisan fighting.

“We can be bipartisan, and we can solve problems, and that’s what I want to be able to do,” Cronin said in an interview. “Did some of the rancor and some of the bitterness and some of the pettiness factor into it? Yeah, I think, I’d have to be honest, yeah. I don’t have the patience for that anymore. But I don’t see that as the hallmark of bipartisanship. I see that as the fringe elements.”

At 61 and the father of four grown children, his youngest a college sophomore, Cronin said the timing is right for a change.

“There’s other things I want to do in my life,” Cronin said.

But he’s not yet ready to close the book on a political career spanning three decades. Cronin spent nearly 20 years as a state lawmaker before he became county board chairman in 2010.

Cronin’s name has recently circulated as a potential challenger to Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker.

Cronin said he’s been encouraged by supporters to consider a bid for statewide office, “any office at the state or federal level.” But Cronin said it’s “highly unlikely” he’d run for governor.

“I still plan to be very much involved,” Cronin said. “I’m going to sit this election cycle out, though.”

And as for future election years? He’ll “never say never.”

“I’m really satisfied that I’ve done my part,” Cronin said. “And now it’s time to move on.”

He says he wants to serve on nonprofit boards and he wants to stay politically engaged, and he can still use his influence and campaign war chest to help elect like-minded candidates.

“I’m not going anywhere,” Cronin said. “I’d like to pursue a role where I’m supportive of candidates that are my brand of candidate, people that work together and collaborate, solve problems. “Republican or Democrat, I plan to be supportive of candidates from both sides of the aisle. And I think my focus will remain at the local level.”

His campaign fund had more than $400,000 available at the end of the year’s second quarter, according to the most recent financial reports filed with the state board of elections.

“It’s not a stunning amount in terms of Illinois politics as a whole,” said Kent Redfield, professor emeritus of political science at the University of Illinois at Springfield. “On the other hand, outside of suburban collar counties, that would be very unusual to find a downstate county chairman or downstate county board member with that kind of balance within their political fund when they chose not to run.”

Without an entrenched Republican incumbent in the chairman’s race, several candidates have either launched or considered a bid to try to succeed Cronin. County board member Liz Chaplin, long a Democratic foil, has said she plans to run for the county’s top seat.

Cronin has not yet formally endorsed an heir apparent. But county board member Greg Hart, a Hinsdale Republican, received $10,000 from Cronin’s campaign fund during the reporting period that ended June 30, state records show.

During his tenure, Cronin sought to consolidate or eliminate obsolete and redundant taxing bodies. With Cronin at the helm, the county dissolved seven units of government.

“Lots of people talk about consolidating government and reforming government, local government,” Redfield said. “And this is one of the instances where somebody came in and was able to accomplish something ... and serve as a model for other counties and people in general who were interested in more effective, efficient, streamlined local government.”

With one year remaining in his term, Cronin said he will push for “meaningful progress” on a game-changing project for western access to O’Hare International Airport, among other priorities.

“We haven’t completely 100% emerged from the pandemic yet,” he said. “I want to really make sure that we put that behind us.”