Democrats focus on longtime GOP strongholds hoping to increase Cook County Board lead: ‘The suburbs … are not what they once were.’

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Not long ago, Democrats seeking to unseat Republican Cook County board members in certain districts faced such long odds of winning they were known as a suicide squad.

But this year, the Cook County Democratic Party expects to pour about $1 million into what it acknowledges is an unprecedented effort to knock out three Republican incumbents serving in what traditionally have been safe seats for the GOP. If the Democrats succeed in defeating Commissioners Tim Schneider, Gregg Goslin and Sean Morrison, Commissioner Peter Silvestri, a generally well-liked Elmwood Park Republican, would be left as the sole GOP member on the 17-member board.

Democrats say Schneider, Goslin and Morrison are out of step with voters in their communities, noting that Hillary Clinton soundly defeated President Donald Trump in each district two years ago. Republicans counter that the election isn’t about national politics and are working to shift focus onto taxes and other local issues.

Jacob Kaplan, the Cook County Democratic Party’s executive director, said the party is going all-in on the races to expand the party’s base, smooth passage of progressive legislation by the board and groom future leaders. Whether Democrats pick up all three seats will depend in part “on how big the blue wave is” that Democratic leaders hope will help them in races across the country, including efforts to take control of the U.S. House, Kaplan said.

Four years ago, people thought it was “a suicide mission” to take on Goslin, Britton said. But this time, Britton feels Goslin is out of step with the district, a point Goslin disputes.

“I still believe I have a Republican district,” Goslin said. “I believe I have the support of people.”

‘Sour grapes’

Running against Morrison, Rashid said he plans to be a leader on the board and deal with “the larger policy issues” of the day, including the criminal justice system, health care and property tax reform.

He also hit Morrison for being against paid sick leave for workers and a minimum wage increase. Morrison countered that minimum wages should be handled at the state or federal level to ensure a fair playing field for all businesses.

Rashid, who’s been active in U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders’ Our Revolution group, supported Fritz Kaegi’s campaign for assessor against former Democratic Party Chairman Joseph Berrios. He said that experience reflects his ability to disagree with Preckwinkle.

“As a Democratic candidate, I took on the chairman of the Cook County Democratic Party,” Rashid said. “I have always been independent, and I’ll continue to be independent.”

Morrison said Democrats on the County Board have “moments of sobriety” but he and his peers are necessary checks and balances.

“They want big money, big spend, big revenue, big government,” Morrison said.

The race against him, he said, is “massive sour grapes” over the soda tax, which Morrison vociferously opposed.

Morrison, the Cook County Republican Party chairman, acknowledges the state shades blue but doesn’t think the district will vote for Rashid, whom he calls a “socialist” due to his association with Sanders’ group.

“Illinois is a majority-Democrat state, but it’s not a socialist state,” Morrison said.

Asked about the “socialist” tag, Rashid said he calls himself an “independent Democrat.”

‘Hyperpartisan’

One of the issues Kevin Morrison highlights against Tim Schneider is the need for more affordable health care options, noting there isn’t a Cook County medical clinic in their district.

“That’s something I’ve stayed firm on wanting to see changed,” Morrison said. “We should focus on more affordable health care options in the northwest suburbs.”

Morrison also has seized on Schneider’s role as chairman of the Illinois Republican Party to call him a “hyperpartisan.”

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Schneider says there’s a county facility in Arlington Heights, not far from their district, and while it would be good to have one inside their borders, he thinks the expense would be duplicative.

Morrison has also questioned whether Schneider is responsive enough to constituents, though Schneider says he regularly holds a wide array of meetings.

On taxes, Morrison said he’s “not in support of regressive taxes like the soda tax” and wouldn’t be a rubber stamp for Preckwinkle.

Schneider said he’s represented his constituents well, standing for businesses and lower taxes. He’s adamant that Preckwinkle will try to reinstate the soda tax, increase the property tax or add to the sales tax in Cook County.

“Those are what she wants to do,” Schneider said. “She doesn’t want any impediment to doing that.”

Despite all the money spent on the race, Schneider said he doesn’t think Democrats will succeed in knocking off all three Republicans.

“The voters in the three districts she’s attacking understand who we are, what we are, and we represent the values and the concerns of the people of our districts,” Schneider said. “I don’t believe she will be successful. No matter how much money you spend, if you have the wrong message, you lose.”

gpratt@chicagotribune.com

Twitter @royalpratt

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November 2, 2018 at 05:09AM

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