April 13, 2022

The word “decapitation” describes the end result of an involuntary separation of one’s head from one’s body. It was very much in use about 230 years ago during the French Revolution, back when guillotines were popular.

It was a way to silence opposition – permanently. While the word has been used to describe military and political strategy by the Russian occupation in Ukraine, the word also describes two upcoming Cook County primary contests.

One contest involves incumbent Toni Preckwinkle for board president and the other for commissioner (R) in the suburban 17th District involving incumbent Sean Morrison.

The tie-in is that both happen to be their respective party’s county chairperson. The defeat of either or both will create a power vacuum, although that IS hyperbole to describe the Republican situation. What “power” is being vacuumed? Should Preckwinkle lose she will quickly go the way of her predecessor Joe Berrios, who got dumped as chair after he lost for assessor in 2018.

BOARD PRESIDENT: With 24,000 jobs and a budget of $8 billion, Preckwinkle’s power is vast, at least insofar as fund-raising. She has more than $200,000 on-hand, but can tap into the public sector unions who represent her employees and the trades unions who get county contracts. She’ll have the $2 million she needs to win on June 28, and total committeeperson backing.

But she can also be viewed politically as damaged goods, as demonstrated by her 26.2 percent showing in the 2010 Chicago mayor runoff. Voters remember her 1-cent sales tax hike and proposed soda tax. Her defeat would spark jubilation in City Hall, as she has no obvious successor with comparable clout. Chaos in 2023 is helpful to Lori Lightfoot.

Richard Boykin is her principal opponent, and he is credible if he can raise about $1.5 million. Boykin was a one-term commissioner and vocal critic of the soda tax, so much so that Preckwinkle and the CTU targeted him for “political decapitation” in 2018 in his West Side/Oak Park district. He lost 24,863-24,426, a margin of 437 votes, to Brandon Johnson, an ex-teacher and CTU organizer. Johnson could be a serious Leftist candidate in 2023. He has a base.

Outlook: Preckwinkle won her 2018 primary 444,943-286,675 in a 731,618 turnout. It will be about the same in 2022. Preckwinkle’s problem is that she can offer no good reason to re-elect her. Just more of the same. But she will win, albeit narrowly.

17TH DISTRICT: Mincing no words, Sean Morrison said opponent Liz Doody Gorman is “a liar who runs with a pack of weasels,” and a RINO – an acronym for Republican-In-Name-Only.

She is Morrison’s predecessor, having been elected in 2002, but then abruptly resigning in 2015 to take a job in the private sector.

The 17 commissioner offices receive $400,000 in appropriated funds that go to salaries as well as office rent, staff salaries and routine office expenses.

Morrison said Gorman was asked by the county to clarify how she used some of that money in the past for dinners and bar tabs. A complaint was filed at the time with the county Department of Human Rights and Ethics but Morrison said that her resignation ended the matter. The board now requires “categorization” of expenses, he said.

Gorman’s husband Gerald, according to news reports, got into a scrape when he was accused of accessing his Chrysler dealership’s lockbox, which is money set aside from car sales for the manufacturer, to fund his wife’s campaigns. This information, according to Morrison, emerged in a messy bankruptcy in the early 2010s, and Gerald lost his dealership.

Gorman lives in Orland Township, dominated by Orland Park, where she is the Republican committeeperson. She had a non-aggression pact with area Democrats, including Mike Carroll, Dan McLaughlin and Mike Hastings: She wouldn’t run a Republican against them, nor they a Democrat against her. That’s changed, with Morrison ally Keith Pekau (R) now Orland Park mayor and 2022 candidate for Congress.

Morrison runs a security business and lives in Palos Township, dominated by Palos Park, where he is the Republican committeeperson. The 17th District runs 46 miles, stretching from Palos/ Orland in the south, then along the Cook/DuPage border to Mount Prospect and Elk Grove in the north. It contains 32 municipalities and parts of 11 townships. In 2018 Morrison beat “progressive” Abdelnasser Rashid (D) 61,572-60,195, a margin of 1,377 votes. That year Republican incumbents in the 14th and 15th districts lost, giving Democrats a 15-2 board majority.

Outlook: Primary turnout in 2018 was 16,189. Morrison has the support of 9 committeepersons (and his township); but Gorman raised close to $400,000. Morrison has just $110,000 on-hand. This will be a mean and nasty primary, and Morrison will need to spend $500,000 to win - and then have to do it again in November. Slight edge to Morrison.

8TH DISTRICT: Commissioner Luis Arroyo Jr. has a sort of Hunter Biden situation in reverse. Instead of the alleged “sins” of the son attaching to the father, the actual and indicted sins of Luis Sr. are attaching to the son, along with the collapse of his dad’s 36th Ward political operation. Luis Sr. was indicted on federal bribery charges and entered a plea deal for one count of wire fraud in Nov. 2021.

The district includes all the Northwest Side Puerto Rican-majority wards, and used to be dominated by Berrios and Arroyo. Alderman Gil Villegas replaced Arroyo as committeeperson, but he is focused on his own congressional bid against Delia Ramirez, who has Leftist support and congressman Chuy Garcia’s endorsement. Ex-commissioner Edwin Reyes, who Arroyo Jr. beat 8,084-6,560 in 2014 is attempting a comeback. He is a protégé of Alderman Roberto Maldonado (26th), who lost for committeeman in 2020.

The other candidates (see chart) are Tony Quezada, Tex Chavez, Rory McHale and Natalie Toro. One will be the Woke/Garcia pick. Outlook: Don’t be surprised if both Arroyo and Reyes lose.

9TH DISTRICT: 28-year incumbent Pete Silvestri (R) is retiring, and keeping the seat is a top priority of Team Griffin, the political apparatus of billionaire Ken Griffin, who is bankrolling the governor campaign of Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin (R). A Pritzker-Irvin contest gives the Republicans a major decapitation opportunity, since billionaire Pritzker is now the Democrats’ major bankroller.

The Republican field includes Matt Podgorski, a Morrison ally, pollster and founder of NWSGOP Club precinct operation, as well as Mark Hosty, a former River Forest trustee and political outsider Frank Coconate. Podgorski has $150,000 on-hand and the support of every committeeperson. The Democrats include Sam Kukadia, a construction contractor with ties to Local 150/Operating Engineers and Jan Schakowsky’s endorsement; Maggie Trevor of Hoffman Estates; Frank McPartlin, who lost to Silvestri in 2014 and 2018; Heather Boyle, who lost for MWRD in 2020; and Chicago cop Brock Merck.

Outlook: The district contains the 41st Ward, the west suburbs down to Elmwood Park, then northwestward along Route 12 to Arlington Heights. Expect a Podgorski-Kukadia face-off, which Podgorski will win if Team Griffin/Irvin delivers big bucks.