By AARON GETTINGER
Two Democrats with local connections, Toni Preckwinkle and Fritz Kaegi, won their respective elections yesterday – Preckwinkle as President of the Cook County Board and Kaegi as Cook County Assessor.
Preckwinkle, the incumbent, is Cook County Democratic Party chair, former Fourth Ward alderman and a candidate for mayor. She said she had taken the party “in a progressive direction that engages people who have previously felt disenfranchised.”
“Together, we flipped two Republican commissioner districts to blue,” she said in a statement released late yesterday. “We defeated President Trump’s ally and Illinois GOP Chair Cook County Commissioner Tim Schneider and elected the first openly LGBT member to serve on the Cook County Board.
“For the first time in the Party’s history, Judge Matthew Coghlan was not endorsed for retention, and, due to his historic loss in his retention race, he will no longer serve as a Cook County judge.”
Coghlan has been accused of misconduct when, as a prosecutor, he submitted erroneous evidence that contributed to the 23-year wrongful imprisonment of two Latino men. As a judge, Coghlan twice refused to grant a post-conviction hearing to a man convicted of murder, even after a higher court ordered him to do so. He has also been attacked for imposing light sentences on police officers.
“Tonight, Democrats sent a clear message to President Trump and Republicans: their policies of fear and bigotry are not welcomed in Cook County,” Preckwinkle said.
Preckwinkle outlined her goals in county government earlier on Election Day before voting in Kenwood at Shoesmith Elementary School: to build upon the Obamacare-propelled expansion of health insurance and to collaborate with other elected officials and the courts to keep lowering the incarcerated population. She declined to discuss her mayoral candidacy.
“We’ve spent the past eight years working on sustainability in our healthcare system, and I’m proud of that. We have 330,000 people who are on a Medicaid expansion program, many of whom have gotten health insurance for the first time,” Preckwinkle said, calling it “a real victory for President Obama and for the congressional Democrats who supported this in 2010.”
She said the county jail population has declined from between 9,000 and 10,000 to less than 6,000 under her watch. She said that was the result of cooperation among the stakeholders — “the public defender, the state’s attorney, the sheriff, the clerk of the court, the chief judge” — and because of the now-smaller likelihood of people accused of nonviolent crimes spending the time between their arrests, court appearances and case dispositions in jail.
“That saves money for our taxpayers, and we haven’t seen dramatic increases in the number of people who don’t show up for their trials and hearings or the number of people accused of a new crime while they’re out awaiting disposition of their old case,” Preckwinkle said. Work is ongoing, she said, on “a policy roadmap to get our county focused on both equity and excellence,” saying she would discuss it in detail in a speech to the City Club of Chicago later this month.
Kaegi, an Oak Park resident originally from Hyde Park and a Kenwood Academy alumnus, was easily elected over his Republican opponent, Joseph Paglia, with 85 percent of the total vote. He won around 89.5 percent of the vote in the Fourth Ward and 93.5 percent in the Fifth. Kaegi will succeed the scandal-plagued incumbent, Joseph Berrios, whom he defeated in the March primary. Preckwinkle succeeded Berrios as county Democratic chair.
“Tonight’s results are a powerful mandate from the voters of Cook County to make our property tax system more ethical, transparent and fair,” Kaegi tweeted on Tuesday night. “Thank you so much for your support!”
Democrats swept all the countywide elected offices. Sheriff Tom Dart and Treasurer Maria Pappas won reelection. Karen Yarbrough was elected county clerk and will preside over that office’s merger with the now-extinct county recorder’s position following a 2016 referendum.