NOV 08, 2022
Midterms 2022: Here’s a look at what’s on the ballot in Cook County
The official Cook County seal [file]
Will Cook County voters choose to raise their own taxes to help shore up funds for the county Forest Preserve District or decide instead to let it risk disrepair and budget tightness? Will county voters elect a predictably Democratic slate of candidates, or will any county races see shake-ups or surprises? Here’s a primer on what’s on the ballot in Cook County this Tuesday.
Tuesday’s election will decide the upcoming funding expectations for the Cook County Forest Preserve District. If passed, the Clean Air, Clean Water, and Wildlife Habitat Protection Referendum would raise the property tax rate for the forest preserves by one quarter of one tenth of a percent, or 0.025 percent. Advocates say the amount of new revenue for the district is necessary to stave off future budget holes and reduce the need to draw from its reserves.
The district has said the tax hike would mean an additional $43.5 million in revenue in the 2023 budget that could go toward deferred maintenance, pensions and capital costs. An average homeowner would see a $21 increase in their property taxes each year if the referendum passes.
Records show the fundraising committee supporting the referendum spent more than $1.5 million in the final months leading up to the midterm elections to promote the ballot question.
Related: Campaign spending to promote Forest Preserve District tax hike exceeds $1.5 million in quarter leading up to election
Cook County Board President
- Toni Preckwinkle (D) is seeking her fourth consecutive term as the top executive in county government. If she wins a fourth term, Preckwinkle will be the longest serving board president since George Dunne, who served from 1969 to 1990. In her most recent budget address, Preckwinkle emphasized the county’s strong financial position, including more than meeting its pension obligations and presenting a budget with no new taxes, while also emphasizing the “transformative” agenda being undertaken by the county using federal ARPA dollars. Thousands of employment vacancies, however, still plague the county. Preckwinkle is a former social studies teacher and Chicago alderman who was the runner-up for Chicago mayor against Lori Lightfoot in 2019.
- Bob Fioretti (R) ran for board president last election cycle but lost to Preckwinkle in the Democratic primary. An attorney and former alderman, Fioretti is now running as a Republican in his sixth political contest in seven years. Fioretti has competed in every Chicago election cycle since 2015.
- Thea Tsatsos (L) works as a medical technologist and is running to bring a “fresh perspective” to the board, she told WTTW. She supports reducing taxes, fewer restrictions on gun ownership and addressing inflation as a number one concern. She opposes the county’s guaranteed basic income pilot program and the SAFE-T Act.
Cook County Assessor
- Fritz Kaegi (D) ousted former Assessor Joseph Berrios during the 2018 Democratic primary. Since he’s been in office, Kaegi has pushed to shift the county’s property tax burden away from homeowners and toward larger commercial building owners, whom Kaegi argues got unfair advantages under Berrios. But that change has riled the real estate industry. Kaegi boasted a notable achievement in the last few weeks, the conclusion of the decade-long federal Shakman monitor over his office, which had been implemented in response to politically motivated hiring practices during Berrios’ tenure.
- Nico Tsatsoulis (L) is running on an anti-establishment platform promising to bring reason and fairness back to the tax system, though he claims he’s being ignored by several mainstream media outlets. On his website, Tsatsoulis says he supports capping assessment increases at 2 percent and property taxes at 1 percent of a property’s value. He alleges the current assessor’s office is inflating property values in a scheme to win legal fees for lawyers who help taxpayers appeal.
- Karen A. Yarbrough (D) is the first woman and first Black person to serve as Cook County Clerk, having been elected in 2018. Though it’s not Yarbrough’s first elected office. She previously served in the state legislature and as Cook County Recorder of Deeds. Yarbrough’s office has been under a federal Shakman monitor since 2020, when the judge in the long-running lawsuit sided with anti-patronage attorney Michael Shakman’s claim of politically motivated hiring in the office.
- Tony Peraica (R) is a former Cook County Board of Commissioners member who served for two terms before being defeated in 2010. He was arrested in the days before he lost that election for defacing the campaign signs of his Democratic opponent, according to Chicago Sun-Times reporting. In 2012, Peraica was found guilty and was sentenced to four months of court supervision, the Sun-Times reported. Peraica has run for an array of other countywide offices, including state’s attorney, County Board President and treasurer. Peraica is also an attorney with a practice located on Chicago’s Southwest Side and says he’s running to snuff out political hiring in the clerk’s office.
- Joseph Schreiner (L) is a self-employed patent agent and translator whose main campaign issue is ardent opposition to all measures and mandates related to COVID-19. On his website, Schreiner calls the virus a “hoax” that’s “no more dangerous than the seasonal flu.” He believes masks and mRNA vaccines pose far more of a danger.
- Thomas Dart (D) has served as Cook County Sheriff since 2006 and previously served as a state legislator and state’s attorney. Dart told WTTW he wants the sheriff’s office “to work in a way that keeps violent offenders off the streets while also providing opportunities for individuals to improve their lives,” and pointed to having clinicians work alongside police on mental health-related calls and providing job training, education and treatment services in the county jail as ways the incumbent sheriff has tried to foster that approach.
- Lupe Aguirre (R) is a Mexican-born attorney and former Chicago police officer who unsuccessfully against Cook County Comm. Dennis Deer (D-2) in the 2018 Democratic primary. Aguirre’s platform includes ensuring the safe operation of businesses, better treatment and access to medical services for defendants in custody, fiscal responsibility and improving the office’s electronic monitoring program, according to his website.
- Brad Sandefur (L) is a former U.S. Marine with a law enforcement career that spans four decades, according to his website. Sandefur believes the bond system and electronic monitoring are letting dangerous offenders out of jail pending trial, though he also thinks the criminal justice system needs to better divert people with mental health issues.
- Maria Pappas (D) has been the county treasurer since 1998. As she campaigns for another term, Pappas points to the digitization of many of the office’s services and the recent creation of a think tank tasked with studying myriad tax-related issues. Her office recently released one such study, which showed delinquent property tax buyers were taking advantage of a loophole they helped craft to profit off administrative mistakes, with the effects largely felt by communities of color. Pappas has promised more studies which examine the “inequities” in the property tax system.
- Peter Kopsaftis (R) is an entrepreneur who has founded and managed multiple real estate companies. He also serves as Barrington Township Republican Committeeman. Kopsaftis ran in the five-way Republican primary earlier this year for a chance to face U.S. Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.) but finished in third place.
- Michael Murphy (L): No information available
Competitive Cook County Board of Commissioners Races
- Brandon Johnson (D) is an incumbent, progressive county commissioner seeking a second term on the board, though he’d give up the seat should he win the race for Chicago mayor. Johnson, a middle school teacher and organizer with the Chicago Teachers Union, announced a bid for mayor in late October. His campaign spokesperson told Block Club Chicago he’d keep the commission seat if reelected, but Johnson would need to relinquish it should he become mayor. In that instance, Preckwinkle would appoint a replacement before a special election would occur. In 2020 Johnson championed a proposal to direct funding away from Cook County Jail toward health care, restorative justice and job creation as a way to address root causes of crime and supported a board resolution to establish Indigenous Peoples Day over Columbus Day.
- James Humay (L) is a first-time candidate for public office who currently serves as treasurer for both the Chicago Libertarian Party and Cook County Libertarian Party, according to WTTW. Humay is running on a platform which includes eliminating and reducing taxes, shrinking government and auditing government for waste, and limiting the authority of the county board president to enact mandates such as those imposed during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Dennis Deer (D) was first appointed to the board in 2017 following the death of Comm. Robert Steele. He won a competitive Democratic primary to serve a full term on the board in 2018 and cruised to election victory that November unopposed. Deer serves on the North Lawndale Community Coordinating Council, was appointed to the Illinois Department of Human Services Domestic Violence Advisory Council and founded a North Lawndale-based rehabilitation and counseling center.
- Evan Kasal (R) is treasurer of the Chicago Republican Party and running on a platform consisting of reducing taxes as an incentive to retain small businesses in the county and working with the county Sheriff’s Office to reduce crime.
- Stanley Moore (D) was first appointed to his seat in 2013 and has since been elected twice. Moore was initially appointed to replace Comm. William Beavers who was convicted of illegally using campaign funds for his personal use, according to DNAinfo reporting at the time. If elected to a third term, Moore told WTTW he will address high property taxes and crime prevention.
- Lynn Franco (R) currently works at Regenstein Library in Hyde Park as a library assistant and serves as the 8th Ward Republican Committeewoman in Chicago. Franco says on her website she wants to improve county roads, bridges and other infrastructure. She believes high taxes have caused an exodus and left properties abandoned and in disrepair. She also wants to address crime by advocating for the sheriff’s office to hire more deputies. Franco spent decades abroad in places such as Germany, London, Baghdad and Kuwait working secretarial, bookkeeping and event planning jobs. She also was a department manager for the Army Air Force Exchange Services.
- Monica Gordon (D) is director of government affairs and community relations at Chicago State University and has the support of outgoing Comm. Deborah Sims (D-5). Sims is retiring after the county’s independent inspector general found she had retaliated against an employee for reporting sexual misconduct, according to the Chicago Tribune. The employee later filed a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission saying they were fired for reporting the misconduct.
- Jason Decker (L) is a handyman who sees blight, crime and abandoned properties as the biggest issues facing the 5th District. Decker told WTTW he started an initiative in 2020 to improve public safety by boarding up abandoned properties and installing hundreds of security cameras, doorbell cameras and exterior lights for no charge.
- Donna Miller (D) is seeking a second term on the board of commissioners. On her website Miller says her top three issues include economic development, health care and property tax assessment reform. Miller recently landed a noteworthy achievement in the passage of a property tax incentive for grocery stores in food deserts. Miller was the lead sponsor of the ordinance.
- Anna Biedrzycki (R) is a registered nurse who ran for alderman in Palos Hills in 2021. She told WTTW she’s running to put “families first,” saying families “are facing rising inflation, making it difficult to buy groceries, put gas in their cars, pay their utility bills, and much more.” She said her number one issue is crime and public safety.
- Maggie Trevor (D) is a researcher and political science professor who resides in Rolling Meadows. Trevor says if elected she will “fight to safeguard the well-being of our families, access to health care, good stewardship of our environment and natural areas, and equitable taxes and efficient use of our tax dollars,” according to her website.
- Matt Podgorski (R) is a Republican political organizer on Chicago’s Northwest Side who considers outgoing Comm. Peter Silvestri (R-9) a mentor. Podgorski, a corporate logistics director who co-founded the Northwest Side GOP Club in 2016, won a three-way primary for the seat with 75 percent of the vote. Some of his priorities include reforming the electronic monitoring system, which he claims lets violent criminals remain free awaiting trial, addressing rising crime, reforming property taxes and reining in spending.
- Bridget Gainer (D) has served as an elected member of the board of commissioners since 2010, though she was appointed to the post in 2009 following the election of Mike Quigley to the U.S. House of Representatives, where he replaced Rahm Emanuel — who had left to become President Barack Obama’s White House Chief of Staff. As a commissioner, one of the biggest achievements Gainer cites is the creation of the Cook County Land Bank, “the region’s most comprehensive response to reduce the amount and impact of vacant land and abandoned buildings throughout Cook County,” as described on her website.
- Laura Mary Kotelman (R) is an attorney and 44th Ward Republican Committeewoman who told WTTW her priorities include improving public safety, shrinking government, lowering taxes and ensuring access to health care. She also called the county land bank a “disaster.”
- John P. Daley (D) is a longtime county commissioner and chair of the Finance Committee. He hails from the powerful Daley family; he is the son of former Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley and brother of former Mayor Richard M. Daley.
- Declan J. Smith (R) is a 22-year-old college senior studying finance who’s working as a bank teller. Smith is running on a platform that includes term limits, the repeal of the recent 10 percent pay raises for county officials, opposition to the SAFE-T Act, creating a business-friendly environment and reductions in taxation and spending.
- Brandon Sizelove (L): Platform information not available
- Bridget Degnen (D) is seeking a second term on the board. Degnen is a lawyer who has practiced in both the public and private sectors, notably working as deputy general counsel for the Illinois Department of Public Health, according to her website. Her campaign stresses environmentalism and sustainable practices, easing resident’s property tax burden and seeking better interventions for those with mental illnesses in the criminal justice system.
- Xiaoli ‘Alice’ Hu (R) was born in China but came to the U.S. to attend college. She holds a master’s degree in business administration from North Park University. Hu owns a family-run small business and works as a global supply chain executive, according to her website. She told WTTW the number one issue for her is “out-of-control” crime.
- Josina Morita (D) was elected to the Board of Commissioners for the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago in 2016 and became the first Asian American elected to a countywide office in Cook County. She says on her website while on the board she “has protected our homes from flooding, promoted equity, and increased transparency.” She would become the first Asian American woman elected to the county board of commissioners if victorious.
- Andrew Border (R) is campaigning to bring change to the county board, saying on his website the current establishment slate has led to “failing schools, outlandish crime rates, and extorted taxpayers.” Border wants to repeal the county board’s measure to give itself and other county officials a 10 percent pay raise with locked-in annual raises of 3 percent indefinitely. He also would push for a public referendum to establish term limits for county government.
- Scott R. Britton (D), a former Village of Glenview trustee, is an incumbent seeking a second term on the county board with a platform that emphasizes affordable health care and civil rights. Britton warned about the erosion of abortion rights, the proliferation of unchecked gun ownership and election denialism by telling WTTW our “fundamental rights are under attack by extremists.” While on the board, Britton said one major accomplishment includes greater protections for renters from eviction and if reelected, Britton said small and medium-sized businesses still need assistance.
- Benton Howser (R) is a Captain in the U.S. Army Reserves with experience in the financial trading sector that led him to found his own hedge fund. Howser told WTTW “Crime is dangerously out of control, taxes are crushing, and we need to be able to create strong livelihoods for ourselves, and more importantly, for our families and future generations.”
- Kevin Morrison (D) is seeking a second term on the board after winning in 2018 to become the first openly LGBTQ commissioner as well as the youngest commissioner elected. Morrison supports small business development and sits on Cook County’s Small Business Working Group. He also advocates for health care and mental health care access and a fairer and more open tax assessment process for homeowners. As a progressive member of the commission, Morrison has been the chief co-sponsor of legislation removing outdated and transphobic language from public bathrooms, was chief co-sponsor of an ordinance expanding renter’s rights and supported creating a commission on addressing equity, bias, and cultural competency, according to his website.
- Chuck Cerniglia (R) opposes the SAFE-T Act and is critical of Morrison’s vote on a symbolic resolution to redirect resources from the jails and policing in 2020, which Cerniglia dubbed a vote to “defund the police.” Cerniglia told WTTW that if elected he’d be an advocate for lower taxes and consolidation of government to reduce waste. If elected he also said he would introduce a resolution “calling on the Illinois General Assembly to vote on legislation that would allow voters in Cook County to recall State's Attorney Kim Foxx.”
- Frank J. Aguilar (D) was appointed to the seat two years ago following the FBI raid on former Comm. Jeffrey Tobolski’s office and is now running to keep the board position. Tobolski eventually pled guilty to extortion charges. Aguilar’s priorities if reelected include continuing to fight against COVID-19, funding flood and other types of infrastructure and increasing funding for mental health and drug treatment.
- Kimberly Jagielski (R) is a certified life coach, worked as a probation officer and veterans court officer and served as a court liaison for the Maywood Courthouse, according to her website. She said she wants to focus on ways to curb crime if elected to the board of commissioners and said she opposed offenders being let out without bond or on low bonds when the crimes they’re accused of are “severe.” She also said she supports more funding for mental health and drug treatment and improved county flood infrastructure.
- Sean Morrison (R) is a rare breed running as an incumbent Republican in Cook County. First appointed to the seat in 2015, Morrison won a full term on the board in the 2018 midterm elections and is seeking a second term. While on the board, Morrison touts leading the repeal of the county’s sweetened beverage tax as a major achievement, as well as preventing suit manufacturer Hart, Schaffner, Marx from leaving the state and his district through an amendment to the county’s tax credit ordinance.
- Daniel T. Calandriello (D) spent eight years employed by the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office and now operates a solo practice as an attorney. Calandriello also served as a member of the Orland Park Board of Trustees, during which he said he kept taxes flat, reduced them during his last year in office, and lowered the village’s debt, according to his website.
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