Bullied as a kid in Elk Grove Village, Kevin Morrison didn’t think he could run for office as an openly gay man.
But in 2015, Morrison started working for then-presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, which set him on a path into politics and eventually led to him to defeating Illinois GOP Chairman Tim Schneider, of Bartlett, in Tuesday night’s election.
Morrison’s election to the Cook County Board is historic. The 28-year-old is both the youngest and the first LGBTQ board member, said President Toni Preckwinkle, who is also chair of the county’s Democratic Party.
Morrison called the win “incredible.”
“It goes to show that when people are casting ballots, they’re looking for new blood and fresh ideas,” Morrison said. “I know from going door to door that people were impressed with my vision and message and the fact that I’m not the classic politician they’ve seen before. It’s an incredible honor to be elected in the village where I grew up.”
Morrison, a graduate of DePaul University, started volunteering for Clinton’s campaign in the spring of 2015. He then got hired into a fellowship within the campaign that led to a job as a full-time field organizer working the Iowa caucuses. He was later promoted to the regional organizing director for Clinton’s campaign in Ohio.
When Clinton lost her bid for president, Morrison came back to Illinois and worked for U.S. Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi and watched the politics going on around him.
“For me, after the 2016 election ended … I knew I wasn’t done fighting,” Morrison said. “I looked at [Schneider’s] record and saw that he wasn’t standing up for the residents of the district. I want to see voices of 15th District represented, and that’s what pushed me to make the decision to run.”
That decision meant walking the neighborhood, knocking on doors to meet constituents and spreading his message — uplifting the working class, creating a better property-tax system and expanding affordable health care to the Northwest suburbs. He credits his message and his grassroots method for his win.
Brian Johnson, CEO of Equality Illinois, was part of a network of volunteers supporting Morrison. He also knows the commissioner-elect personally.
“It’s important for our community to see ourselves reflected at tables of power and influence,” Johnson said. “To see an openly gay person inspires young LGBT people to lend their strengths and talents to their community.”
Johnson said he was impressed with Morrison’s campaign and called him a “work horse” who was driven to “personally connect with as many people as possible.”
The money that flooded his race didn’t hurt either. Morrison’s challenge to Schneider saw $310,000 come from the Cook County Democratic Party — another $50,000 came from the state Democratic Party, according to Illinois Sunshine.
Morrison said he resents claims that he would be beholden to Preckwinkle because of the resources put into his campaign. His network of friends, family and others raised $250,000, and the support he received from the party is “no comparison to the support I have on the ground,” Morrison said.
The commissioner-elect plans to work with assessor-elect Frederick “Fritz” Kaegi to reform the property-tax system and also “change the statistic that the Cook County Jail is the largest provider of mental health services,” Morrison said.
Morrison says he’s still awaiting a phone call from Schneider and, despite the contentious race, wishes him well.
“I’m sure in his mind he thought he was doing the best job for the district, but we’re a very inclusive and diverse district with an incredible immigrant community,” Morrison said. “This is a district that has been shifting, and the politics and division we see out of D.C. isn’t representative of the Northwest suburbs.”
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November 7, 2018 at 07:59PM