Political newcomer Fritz Kaegi has taken down one of the most powerful men in Chicago politics: incumbent Cook County Assessor Joe Berrios, who also happens to be the chairman of the Cook County Democratic Party.
Berrios held this office since 2010 but has come under increased scrutiny for a host of issues, including those outlined in an investigative series by the Chicago Tribune and ProPublica Illinois and an independent analysis of the property tax assessment system by the non-partisan Civic Consulting Alliance. Both found an “unequal burden” on residents and “deep inequities” in the “flawed” property tax assessment system.
The investigations found that wealthy residents who could pay for property tax lawyers to appeal their assessments paid less in property taxes, leaving disadvantaged communities to make up the difference. In December, several groups filed suit against Barrios for racial discrimination.
Kaegi has vowed to clean up the assessor’s office, pledging to make the assessments “fair, equitable and transparent.” What’s unclear is how exactly that will impact future property tax bills for Cook County residents.
As of now, Kaegi does not have a Republican challenger in November’s general election. However, the GOP could slate a candidate.
According to office of Cook County Clerk David Orr, “Every established political party has a right to nominate a candidate. If no one is nominated at the primary that creates a ‘vacancy in nomination.’ That party’s county Central Committee can designate a nominee. The nominee would still have to go through the process of getting the same required number of signatures needed to be on the ballot in the primary and they would also file the required candidate paperwork such as the Statement of Economic Interest.”
“The nominee has until June 4 to file,” said Orr’s spokesman Nick Shields.
Kaegi also faces a legal challenge from another Democratic primary challenger, Andrea Raila, who filed a lawsuit Tuesday in the Chancery Division of Cook County to challenge the election certification. Raila is seeking a new election and a federal investigation of voter suppression.
The backstory: Raila was initially tossed from the ballot for petition signature irregularities, but she won her appeal and was allowed back on the ballot five days before the March 20 primary election.
However, election judges were mistakenly given instructions to inform voters that she was off the ballot. Those instructions were erroneously texted to election workers Tuesday morning, and signs were posted with the incorrect information.
“Votes were suppressed. We’re asking for a new election,” said Raila’s attorney Frank Avala. “There’s a dark shadow and cloud over this election.”
“It was on the walls and in the polling booths. My sister took pictures and sent it to me,” said Avala. “This was an attempt to tamper and alter the election and affect the election results.”
“We’re not talking about a few isolated incidents. This was the entire morning. I have documented incidents in Arlington Heights, Palatine, Oak Forest, Park Forest and Skokie, as well in the 50th ward, the 42nd, the 2nd, the 47th, the 26th, the 1st, the 36th, the 10th, the 17th, the 34th and other wards that spans north, south, east and west,” said Avala.
First, absentee votes will be counted. Then the election certification takes a few weeks if the courts don’t step in.
The general election takes place Tuesday, Nov. 6.
March 20: In a blow to the Democratic establishment in Cook County, Fritz Kaegi has defeated incumbent Cook County Assessor Joe Berrios. “The old machine style is no match for the people of Cook County,” Kaegi told a gathering of supporters.
March 19: A conversation with on-again, off-again Cook County assessor candidate Andrea Raila, now that she’s on the ballot.
March 6: There’s a heated battle in the Democratic primary for Cook County assessor that few saw coming. Fritz Kaegi talks about taking on incumbent Joseph Berrios in our candidate forum.
March 1: After a highly critical independent report finds Cook County property taxes punish the poor, officials from the assessor’s office are put in the hot seat.