November 28, 2018


The good news for Cook County Republicans is that the 2018 election still left them with two of 17 county commissioners, a loss of two. The frightening news is that a switch of 6,970 votes in the 9th and 17th county districts would have left them with zero commissioners.

The Cook County Democratic Party, along with a multitude of labor union PACS and the state party spent close to $1 million to defeat three suburban Republican incumbents - Sean Morrison, Gregg Goslin and Tim Schneider - by flooding their districts with mailers and cable TV ads tying them to the president and governor. It worked, and Goslin and Schneider went down. Morrison won by 1,994 votes, and a fourth incumbent, Peter Silvestri, won by 4,976 votes.

In Silvestri's 9TH DISTRICT, which encompasses 67 precincts on Chicago's Northwest Side - 47 in the 41st Ward and 20 in the 38th Ward - plus 159 precincts in a swath of close-in west suburbs stretching from Park Ridge south to Elmwood Park, the 24-year Republican commissioner defeated Democrat Frank McPartlin 55,278-50,302, a margin of 4,976 votes, or 52.3 percent, in a turnout of 105,580. McPartlin didn't lose because he ran a desultory campaign but because he ran NO campaign.

Silvestri was part of the coalition of commissioners that repealed the soda tax, and he raised and spent $342,791 during the 2018 cycle, while McPartlin, a retired county employee, raised and spent zero, as he did in his 2014 race. Had out-of-district Democrats found a more viable candidate, such as an Irish-surnamed woman, or even if they funded McPartlin to the level of $150,000, Silvestri may have been history.

Silvestri in 2014 beat McPartlin 37,150-21,066, a margin of 16,084 votes, or 62.8 percent, in a turnout of 81,330 votes, which was 24,251 votes less than in 2018. Silvestri got 2,365 more votes than in 2014, and McPartlin received 15,342 more.

The key to Silvestri's longevity, and to his 2018 win, lies in the 41st Ward, where his political ally is State Representative Mike McAuliffe (R-20), who is the ward's Republican committeeman. McAuliffe ran unopposed in 2018, after 2016 opponent Merry Marwig (D) withdrew. Almost $5 million was spent in the 2016 contest, with Mike Madigan and the Springfield Democrats pouring in close to $2 million, and Governor Bruce Rauner and his rich financial allies channeling $3 million through the state party to rescue McAuliffe. He won 25,739-20,142, carrying the 41st Ward 11,070-7,794, over Marwig. The 20th District largely overlaps the 9th Cook County District.

Without an active Democratic candidate creating a ground presence in the ward's precincts, and no McPartlin mailings, and despite Rauner losing the ward 11,639-9,774, Silvestri won the 41st Ward 11,593-9,811. The 2014 vote was 10,718-6,327. So McPartlin, just by being a Democrat on the ballot, got 3,484 more votes. In the 38th Ward, Silvestri won 4,170-3,993, compared to the 3,422-2,647 2014 result.

In the suburbs, which include parts of eight townships, Silvestri won 39,849-37,035, a margin of 2,814 votes. In the Leyden Township (Rosemont, Schiller Park, Franklin Park, Elmwood Park), Silvestri's base, he won 7,753-6,008; in Norwood Park Township (Norridge, Harwood Heights) he won 4,631-3,453; In Maine Township (Park Ridge and parts of Des Plaines) he won 15,229-14,479. In 2014 he won the suburbs 37,150-21,066, which meant McPartlin's vote rose by 15,969.

The good news for Silvestri is that his new term runs through 2022, at which time Rauner (and maybe Trump) will not be a factor. The bad news is that the 15-2 board Democratic majority will remap the 17 districts in 2021 based on the 2020 census, reconfiguring the 9th District. This means Silvestri likely will not get a pass in 2022.

In Morrison's west suburban 17TH DISTRICT, a barbell-shaped monstrosity which includes 11 townships and extends from Elk Grove/Des Plaines south to the upscale suburbs of Palos Park, Tinley Park and Orland Park, with Hillside, Northlake, Riverside and LaGrange in between, the appointed Republican edged Democrat Abdelnasser Rashid 61,264-59,720, a margin of 1,994 votes, or 50.6 percent, in a turnout of 129,276. His predecessor, Liz Gorman, was unopposed in 2014 and received 56,926 votes.

Morrison multi-tasks as the county Republican chairman and Palos Township committeeman, giving the Democrats a juicy target to rip as a Trump and Rauner toady. "The Democrats and their leftwing MoveOn, 'Our Revolution' and socialist allies will spend $1 million to beat me," predicted the conservative Morrison in a May interview. They came close to that goal, with Rashid disclosing $467,180 raised during 2018 from county and state party sources, donors and labor unions.

Two factors rescued Morrison, who raised $240,522. The first was geographic, the second ethnic and partisan. The district contains 11 townships, of which six (Bremen, Lemont, Lyons, Worth, Orland and Palos) are in the south (with 180 precincts), with Elk Grove, Leyden and Maine in the north (with 45 precincts), and Proviso and Riverside in the west (with 47 precincts). Morrison won his base, the six south townships, by a 10,136-vote majority, and lost the north and west by 8,135 votes.

The second was Rashid himself, a fierce partisan who multi-tasks between campaigns as an operative with stints as a deputy clerk in David Orr's office. There is a large Muslim population in Bridgeview, and a growing Asian Indian and Pakistani population in Schaumburg and Streamwood, but both are outside of the 17th Cook County District. Rashid did not connect well with affluent, conservative voters.

In Schneider's 15TH DISTRICT, which contains all or part of six townships (Barrington, Schaumburg, Hanover, Palatine, Elk Grove and Wheeling) in the county's far northwest corner, 12-year Republican Schneider - who won 40,569-28,392 in 2014 - lost 52,807-43,331 to Democrat Kevin Morrison on Nov. 6. Turnout in the district's 183 precincts zoomed to close to 90,000, and Morrison got 24,415 more votes than the 2014 nominee.

Ravi Raja was the Democratic establishment's preferred 2018 nominee, as he had appeal to the large Asian Indian, Pakistani and Asian population in Schaumburg and Streamwood. But Morrison beat Raja by 10 votes in the March primary. Nevertheless the party coalesced behind Morrison, with an influx of party and union money. He raised $263,769 (to Schneider's $276,019). Schneider was pounded as a Republican partisan, and won a majority of 1,826 in Barrington and Palatine townships, but that was offset by Morrison's 11,362-vote bulge in the other four townships, which include Schaumburg, Streamwood, Bartlett, Hoffman Estates and Rolling Meadows. For Republicans, the 15th District is GONE.

In Goslin's north suburban 14TH DISTRICT, which runs along the county's upper tier from Glencoe, Northfield, Northbrook and Glenview west to Wheeling, Palatine and Arlington Heights, the 24-year Republican lost to Democrat Scott Britton, a Glenview trustee, 62,792-53,073, a margin of 9,719 votes, getting just 45.8 percent. Goslin lost every township. In the east end's upscale Northfield Township, Britton won 21,564-16,521, a margin of 5,043 votes. In the supposedly Republican west end, Britton won by 4,415 votes.

Goslin was unopposed in 2014, and had stashed $78,216 of his campaign cash in an "investment" account. He raised $107,712 during 2018. Britton raised $173,446. Goslin was quoted post-election as attributing his loss to the President Trump, stating that a Republican can no longer win in his area.

The Republican debacle will impact future board deliberations, with five new Democrats replacing retiring or defeated Democrats, plus Morrison and Britton. The 2019 county budget is $5.9 billion, with no new taxes, but with more jobs to add to the current 22,000. The message of 2018 is that opposition to taxes is not a vote-winner; opposition to Trump was. This much is certain: There will be no resistance to future county tax hikes. And there will be resistance to electing Commissioner John Daley (D) board president if Toni Preckwinkle is elected Chicago mayor. Commissioner Larry Suffredin (D-13) would be the likely choice.

The Republicans' 15-2 minority constitutes a century-low record. Commissioners from the 1930s to the 1970s were elected at-large, 10 from Chicago, all Democrats, and five from the suburbs, all Republicans. No Republican ever won a citywide seat. That insured Democrats' ongoing control of the county budget and patronage jobs.

In the late 1970s a sixth suburban seat was added, and a Democrat got elected. So Republicans were down 11-5. All that changed in 1991 when the Republican legislature created 17 single-member county board districts, effective 1994, and also tossed the requirement that the president, elected countywide, must be a commissioner.

The intent was to elect more suburban Republicans, and more minorities in Chicago. It worked...for a while. After 1994, the board was 11-6, an all-time high. But a Republican incumbent lost a south suburban district in 1998, and another in 2010, making it 13-4. And now it's 15-2. Minorities, however, have done well. Among the 15 Democrats, five are African-American and two are Hispanic.

Being a commissioner used to be a steppingstone for Democrats to be president, and then run for higher office, or get some street or entity named after them. Anton Cermak (1922-31) was Chicago mayor (1931-33) until assassinated. Dan Ryan (1954-61) got an expressway named after him, John Stroger (1994-2006) a hospital, Clayton Smith (1934-46) a forest preserve, and Emmet Whealen (1931-34) a swimming pool. Seymour Simon (1962-66) became alderman and then state Supreme Court justice. Republican Dick Ogilvie (1966-68) became governor, while Republican Bill Erickson (1946-54) and Democrat Dick Phelan (1990-94) lost governor primaries. The longevity record belongs to George Dunne (1969-90), who, unlike Preckwinkle, passed on opportunities to run for mayor.