A county commissioner from 1997 to 2004, McCormack is banking his comeback on his knowledge of government and reputation as a crusader for human services. Tim Hagan unseated him in the 2004 Democratic primary, a loss he aims to turn to an advantage with scandal-weary voters. "The Democratic Party is a big part of the problem in this town," he says.
What we should expect from the new county executive: "A balanced leader, a person who sets a high personal standard. A very good communicator, especially with the new council. [Someone] open to suggestions and criticism. .... You have to be compassionate, yet you have to know how to balance a budget."
Jobs: McCormack wants to embrace a regional economic strategy. "Working with Canton's Timken roller bearing is as important as working with a Cleveland firm," he says. The county land bank could tear down old industrial buildings to make way for redevelopment or donate them to expanding businesses.
Regionalism: McCormack admires a proposal to merge Pittsburgh's city and county governments and the Minneapolis region's sharing of new tax revenues. "These plans should not be imposed on people," he says, but he'd consider "anything that would work."
More reforms: McCormack is alarmed at cuts to county programs for needy infants and abused children. "You keep, first and foremost, human dignity, and you figure out how you can afford to do it."
The current county government's successes and failures: He praises its bond rating and early childhood education but says it's gotten "lazy and negligent" in the past few years. "We need to do a lot better in almost every category."
Can Tim McCormack, the righteous crusader, change?
Why did Tim McCormack lose his re-election bid in 2004? He says big business opposed him because he questioned their convention center efforts and that parts of the Democratic establishment, including Frank Russo, helped take him down. Both stories are true. It's also true that lots of people found McCormack self-righteous and hard to work with.
He says he got so intense because too many of the county's social-service clients were dying. "I took that to heart and stopped smiling," he says. "I could never do that again." The executive, he says, will have to set "a positive tone."
McCormack's opponents will dismiss him as part of the past, trying to counter his reputation as smart, honest and conscientious. But it'll distract from a deeper question: Has McCormack changed enough to bring people together?