Manifolds, Manolos & Manure
March ushered few, but significant changes in Illinois’ political scene. Incumbent Governor Bruce Rauner squeaked out a narrow victory over political newcomer Jeanne Ives. His squeaky, narrow victory signals major trouble this fall as he faces off against billionaire and political newcomer J.B. Pritzker. The Rauner and Pritzker victories set the stage for an epic millionaire v. billionaire battle this fall.
Closer to home, incumbent Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle sailed to victory over former Alderman Robert “Bob” Fioretti. Along with grabbing 60 percent of the vote she also carried Bill Lowry, Bridget Degnan, and Brandon Johnson to victory thus strengthening her position of power on the county board and Cook County Democratic Party.
However, her endorsement didn’t carry incumbent Assessor Joe Berrios to victory. Cook County Democratic Party chairman and incumbent Assessor Berrios lost to political newcomer Fredrick “Fritz” Kaegi. Kaegi ran on a promise to provide transparency to Cook County’s property tax system.
Lowry, an attorney and anti-violence activist, sailed to victory in the third district in a field of seven candidates. Lowry garnered the support of Preckwinkle. The opening in the third district was created when incumbent commissioner Jerry Butler announced that he wouldn’t be seeking re-election. Butler was first elected in 1985. The third district stretches from the near northside lakefront to the south suburbs.
In November, Lowry will face off against George Blakemore. A former teacher turned vocal thorn in local governments’ side.
Degnan, an attorney and former medical marijuana dispensary regulatory for the state, won the 12th district against incumbent commissioner John Fritchey. Fritchey, an early and outspoken critic of the beverage tax lost by 10 percent. Degnan was supported by public employee unions and by Preckwinkle in a district that zigzags from downtown to the northwest side.
Johnson received Preckwinkle’s support after incumbent commissioner Richard Boykin introduced a scathing resolution declaring a vote of no confidence in the Cook County Assessor and County Board President regarding regressivity in the property tax system. Although Boykin later amended the resolution, the former Chicago Teachers Union organizer edged to victory over the outspoken beverage tax and sales tax opponent. The first district includes the far west side and many western suburbs.
Lowry, Degnan, and Johnson’s victories likely pave the way for less turmoil and a smoother path on the county board for Preckwinkle’s priorities- public health, public safety and economic development during her final term. Both Fritchey and Boykin were outspoken opponents of Preckwinkle’s beverage tax and sales tax increase. Both also worked diligently to streamline the county’s operations and minimize the budget impacts of the revenue reduction created by the elimination of the beverage tax.
March’s victories could signal significant concerns this fall for commissioners in contested races who supported the beverage tax repeal.