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.
“The suburbs of Cook County are not what they once were,” Kaplan said, referring to the contested areas as places that once were “hardcore Republican” but are changing.
Republicans warn that if they lose, their defeats could transform the board into a total rubber stamp for Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, who is also the county Democrats’ chairman. That, they say, would lead to big tax increases down the road and less oversight of the administration.
“They want to take us out to eliminate checks and balances,” Schneider said. “They have a tax-and-spend mentality. We have a tighten-your-belt and live-within-your-means mentality.”
Schneider, who also serves as the state Republican Party chairman, said he thinks national politics will play a smaller role in the county races than Democrats hope.
“If we were running for Congress or the United States Senate, that would be a concern, but we’re running for the Cook County board,” Schneider said. “The Cook County board does not have a relationship with Trump. The voters should decide whether to elect us or not based on the work we’ve done at the county.”
It would be bad news for Republicans if the vote totals in the Nov. 6 election mirror the 2016 election. Clinton received 58 percent of the vote to Trump’s 36 percent in Goslin’s district, 57 percent to Trump’s 37 percent in Schneider’s district, and 50 percent to Trump’s 44 percent in Morrison’s district.
Goslin’s district includes northwest and north suburbs, Schneider represents northwest suburbs, and Morrison represents southwest, west and northwest suburbs.
No matter the result of all three races, next year’s County Board already is destined for transformation, as five new Democrats are expected to be sworn in next month. Retiring Commissioner Jerry “Iceman” Butler will be replaced by attorney Bill Lowry. Commissioner John Fritchey was defeated in the primary by attorney Bridget Degnen, and Commissioner Richard Boykin, an outspoken Oak Park Democrat, lost to Chicago Teachers Union organizer Brandon Johnson.
Commissioner Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, who’s running for Congress, will be replaced by one of his aides, Alma Anaya. Health care consultant Donna Miller also is expected to replace Edward Moody, a longtime political operative for Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan who has been pushing to be appointed the county’s next recorder of deeds.
Then there’s uncertainty around the president position itself, as Preckwinkle is running for mayor of Chicago and would need to be replaced if she wins, leading to potentially greater change at the county.
So far, the Cook County Democratic Party has spent $261,000 to support Abdelnasser Rashid against Morrison in the 17th District. The party also has spent $288,000 to benefit Goslin’s opponent, Glenview trustee and attorney Scott Britton, in the 14th District, and another $264,000 to support Kevin Morrison against Schneider in the 15th District.
Morrison has been on the board since 2015. Schneider joined in 2006 and Goslin in 1998.
Goslin, the longest-serving of the three targeted Republicans, says the extent of the Democratic Party’s support for his opponent caught him by surprise.
Goslin and Preckwinkle have had a historically “respectful and professional relationship,” despite the fact she isn’t “warm and fuzzy,” Goslin said.
“I’m surprised and frankly I’m a little wounded,” Goslin said. “I thought the president and I had a good relationship. It was a respectful and professional relationship.”
The two didn’t always agree, Goslin said, but they were on the same page more often than not. It wasn’t until they started clashing over “tax-and-spend policies” that their relationship faltered, Goslin said.
“She wants to raise taxes. She never found a tax she didn’t like,” Goslin said. “We are the firewall.”
Goslin questioned Britton’s independence with all the money that’s being spent on his behalf by unions and the party.
For his part, Britton questioned Goslin’s activity level as a board member and pledged to be active on a number of issues. As a Glenview trustee, Britton said, he usually goes to Democratic Commissioner Larry Suffredin for help whenever he needs assistance from a board member “because he can actually get something done.”
“(Goslin) doesn’t work real hard and I never see him,” Britton said.
Goslin countered: “I’m the first person in the county building on board (meeting) days.”
Asked if he can be independent, Britton said he agrees with Preckwinkle “on 99 percent of what’s going on” but doesn’t think they’re tied at the hip.
“Like I would say to Toni, I’m my own man,” Britton said.
He called Preckwinkle’s soda tax a “gimmick” and pledged to be active in working to address problems with the Forest Preserves and push to incorporate unincorporated areas to help save the county money.
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.”
Feeds,News,Region: Chicago,City: Chicago
via Home – Chicago Tribune https://ift.tt/1LjWzdx
November 2, 2018 at 05:09AM