• Alex Nitkin
    AUG 19, 2019

    Democrats chafe after Latino candidates shut out from top of 2020 slate

    Former Cook County Assessor Joe Berrios, right, and Retired Judge Gloria Chevere, who served as as a proxy for Ald. Roberto Maldonado (26), listen during Friday's slating meeting. [Alex Nitkin/The Daily Line]

    Latino candidates were shut out of party endorsements in headline races at the end of Cook County Democrats’ two-day slating session Friday, leaving some members feeling like the county’s 1.3 million Hispanic residents got short shrift on the ballot.

    The party’s 80 committeepeople voted on Friday to include three Latinos among 13 candidates who were endorsed to fill vacancies on the Cook County circuit court, and three additional Latinos were endorsed as alternates in case more judgeships open up before Election Day.

    And the party’s Latino Caucus spearheaded a maneuver to dump Metropolitan Water Reclamation District Commissioner Frank Avila from the ticket to keep his seat, replacing him with Hanover Park Village Clerk Eira Corral Sepúlveda.

    But Cook County Circuit Court Clerk candidate Michael Cabonargi, State’s Attorney Kim Foxx and Illinois Supreme Court Justice P. Scott Neville all walked away with the party nod in the three marquee 2020 races, after Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle managed to wrangle the diverse group of committeepeople during the first slating process since she took over as party chair last year.

    Some Latino Caucus members wanted the party to endorse Appellate Judge Jesse Reyes for the contested Supreme Court race. The seven-member court comprises six white justices and Neville, who is African American.

    “Next time” a vacancy opens on the court, “we should strive to make sure” Reyes is elected to the high court, former Cook County Assessor Joe Berrios said on Thursday. Berrios is the Democratic committeeperson for the 31st Ward.

    This year marks the first time in more than a decade that Cook County has not had a Latino executive filling an elected countywide position. Foxx defeated former State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez in 2016, and Berrios lost his re-election bid to Assessor Fritz Kaegi last year.

    In a county where Latinos comprise one quarter of residents — and an even higher proportion of Democrats — State Sen. Luis Arroyo Sr. had been hoping for more representation on the slate, he told The Daily Line

    “We want our due in the county, in water rec, in every city government where the Latino population is 25 or 30 percent,” said Arroyo, who is the 36th Ward committeeperson. “We want parity — that’s all we’re asking for.”

    State Sen. Iris Martinez, one of five candidates who asked for the party’s endorsement for Circuit Court Clerk race, went further, telling the assembled party members on Friday that they had “united around one common purpose: disenfranchising 1.3 million Hispanic candidates in Cook County, and doing whatever it takes to prevent Latinos from holding any executive position in Cook County.”

    The senator called for an open primary, warning against a “back-room deal” that would hand the endorsement to Cabonargi.

    Cabonargi had no knowledge of any secret deal to land him an endorsement, he told The Daily Line.

    “I've been running for this office for months, when Dorothy Brown was the incumbent,” Cabonargi said. “I always wanted to be the clerk of the court, and I laid out my case to the committeemen who are here.”

    Brown, whose office has been besieged by accusations of patronage and mismanagement since before she won a new four-year term in 2016, announced earlier this week that she would not run for a sixth term in office.

    Members of the party’s Latino Caucus rallied behind Martinez’s candidacy, but they were overruled in a roll call vote, according to Ald. Roderick Sawyer (6), who chaired the committee that considered candidates for county office.

    “We have a plethora of Latino candidates all across the slate, and just because one didn’t get slated, that doesn’t mean there’s a conspiracy,” said Sawyer, who is also the Democratic committeeperson for his South Side ward. “[Martinez] had substantial support, but there was an honest vote — this is the democratic process we have.”

    Ald. Mike Rodriquez (22), the vice chair of the Cook County Democratic Party, addresses the party's 80 voting members. [Alex Nitkin/The Daily Line]

    Preckwinkle added that Martinez should “take up” her accusation that the party excludes Latinos with Ald. Michael Rodriguez (22), who is vice chair of the party.

    Retired Judge Gloria Chevere, who voted on Friday as a proxy for Ald. Roberto Maldonado (26), said the outcome of the slating process was “not exactly what we wanted” going into the two-day session. Maldonado is the committeeman for his ward, and he chairs the City Council’s Latino Caucus.

    “But when you look at the entire ticket, I think we did well, and I think the party's going to work hard for that ticket,” Chevere said. “We're still coming of age politically, and I think in the future, in terms of the top of the ticket, we're going to be able to do better.”

    State’s Attorney race

    Foxx earned the party’s endorsement on a voice vote, Sawyer said.

    The state’s attorney spoke before any other candidate on Friday, saying her office was on the “cutting edge” of national efforts to reduce prison populations and overturn wrongful convictions.

    But her endorsement faced opposition from some committeepeople who represent suburbs and the city’s Bungalow Belt, home to many police officers who have panned Foxx’s efforts at criminal justice reform.

    Democrats in Norwood Park Township voted “overwhelmingly” during a meeting this week not to endorse Foxx, citing a “a lack of confidence” in her ability to “ensure that proper justice is delivered, Committeeperson Frank Avino told The Daily Line.

    “We agree with [Foxx] about not putting away nonviolent offenders for a long time,” Avino said. “But the high-level drug offenders and gangs need to be dealt with to the fullest extent of the law, and the concern in my community is that that’s not happening under Kim Foxx’s tenure as state’s attorney."

    Foxx did not appear at the party’s June pre-slating event. She arrived through a side door right before her speech on Friday, and she left immediately afterward.

    A longtime ally of Preckwinkle, Foxx also weighed in on the board president’s simmering feud with Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson over the county’s changes to its bond recommendations.

    “The way that the bail laws have been enacted is a constitutional mandate that we cannot put excessive bails on people,” Foxx said during her remarks. “There had been a perversion before where we were assigning bails that we knew people couldn’t afford. That is unconstitutional.”

    Circuit court judge endorsements

    The 13 candidates and 10 alternates who were endorsed for circuit court judge positions make up “likely the most diverse and qualified slate” the party has ever endorsed, according to State Sen. Don Harmon, who chaired the party’s judicial slating committee.

    Women make up nine of the 13 endorsed candidates and five of the 10 alternates. And the party also slated its first-ever transgender candidate, attorney Jill Rose Quinn, for a judge seat, Harmon said.

    The full list of circuit court judge endorsements:

      • Vacancy of the Hon. Carole K. Bellows – Kerrie Maloney Laytin
      • Vacancy of the Hon. Matthew E. Coghlan – James T. Derico, Jr.
      • Vacancy of the Hon. Nicholas R. Ford – Laura Ayala-Gonzalez
      • Vacancy of the Hon. Raymond Funderburk – Celestia L. Mays
      • Vacancy of the Hon. Joyce Marie Murphy Gorman – Sheree D. Henry
      • Vacancy of the Hon. Diane J. Larsen – Levander Smith, Jr.
      • Vacancy of the Hon. Mary Anne Mason – Christ Stacey
      • Vacancy of the Hon. James P. McCarthy – Teresa Molina
      • Vacancy of the Hon. Jessica A. O’Brien – Lloyd James Brooks
      • Vacancy of the Hon. Sebastian T. Patti – Lynn Weaver Boyle
      • Vacancy of the Hon. Thomas D. Roti – Araceli De La Cruz
      • Vacancy of the Hon. Colleen F. Sheehan – Maura McMahon Zeller
      • Vacancy of the Hon. Kevin M. Sheehan – Jill Rose Quinn
      • 1st Alternate – Tom Nowinski
      • 2nd Alternate – Travis Richardson
      • 3rd Alternate – Cristin McDonald Duffy
      • 4th Alternate – Eric Sauceda
      • 5th Alternate – Yolanda Sayre
      • 6th Alternate – Frank Andreau
      • 7th Alternate – Joseph Chico
      • 8th Alternate – Diane Marie Pezanoski
      • 9th Alternate – Amanda Pillsbury
      • 10th Alternate – Ashonta Rice

    The slate does not include attorneys Beth Ryan, Erin Antonietti or Katherine O’Dell, who all recorded enough personal campaign donations to bust the fundraising caps in their respective races.

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