Cook, DuPage County Boards With Tight Races Up For Grabs Next Week

Tuesday is election day, when the outcomes of races will technically be determined.

But a sizable number of Illinois races won't settled then. In areas that are solidly Democratic or Republican, races were virtually decided over the summer, in the primary contest. 

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But particularly in the suburbs, it's not always as cut and dried.

There's real competition in DuPage County where there’s an open seat for DuPage County Board chair.

Republican Dan Cronin has chaired the DuPage County Board for the past dozen years, but he is not running for re-election, making it an open seat that Democrats hope to claim for the first time.

State Representative Deb Conroy of Elmhurst says all 58 chairs of the DuPage County Board have been Republican men and it's time to change that.

“When I was first elected (to the Illinois House) 10 years ago, I was the first Democrat out here, and everywhere I went I was in a room filled with — I was the only woman. It was all white men, and they were all Republican,” Conroy said. “And that is not the face of DuPage County today. It is very diverse, it is richly diverse,”

Conroy is running against Republican Greg Hart, a Hinsdale resident and current member of the DuPage County Board.

“There’s no doubt that DuPage County looks and votes different than it did 50 years ago, 20 years ago, even 10 years ago,” Hart said. “But one thing that I’m certain of in my conversations with residents across the county, regardless of what political affiliation they may subscribe to — Republican, Democrat or independent — the issues that they care about continue to be the same.” 

Hart said residents consistently want safe communities, the opportunity for economic growth and to keep taxes low.

He's a management consultant, and said private sector expertise like his is needed to run a county of nearly 1 million residents, and a budget (including a recent influx of federal funds) approaching $1 billion.

Hart says another top priority would be to hire more lawyers at the state's attorney's office, and more officers with the sheriff's department.

He's critical of Conroy's vote in Springfield for the SAFE-T Act criminal justice law that will eliminate cash bail in Illinois starting in January.

Conroy stands by that vote, and said it's unfair people are locked up solely because they don't have money for bail. She pointed out that negotiations are ongoing to address concerns from state’s attorneys critical of the law. 

Conroy helped secure state funds for a receiving center that will keep those with mental health issues and addiction out of jail, and instead direct them to treatment.

Furthering those initiatives is among her top priorities were she to be elected as the next DuPage County Board chair.

“I’m certainly not going to tell you that things are not doing well in DuPage County. I’m very proud of DuPage County,” she said. “But I feel that there are things that we’ve only scratched the surface on. The environment — there’s so much more we can do with the environment. Mental health, we’ve only scratched the surface. And diversity. We should have a chief executive officer of diversity in DuPage County.”

Cook County, likewise, certainly has some toss-up races.

Republicans currently hold only two of the board's 17 districts. One of the incumbent Republicans, 17th District Commissioner Sean Morrison is running again, against Democrat Dan Calandriello.

The other Republican Commissioner, Peter Silvestri, is not running after 28 years representing the 9th district.

The newly redrawn 9th District includes parts of Chicago and stretches from River Forest in the southeast to Palatine on the southwest.

While they may not agree on much else, both candidates vying for the seat say it could go either way.

Democrat Maggie Trevor, who grew up in Rolling Meadows, has a background in health care and said if elected she will focus on improving Cook County's health care and hospital systems by building up a wider network of doctors and providing more mental health services, which she said are currently “grossly underprovided."

In the wake of the overturning of Roe v. Wade, Trevor says expanding capacity for reproductive care is critical.

“There needs to be a build out of capacity for obstetrics and gynecology in gnereal, but reproductive services in particular have (been) impacted, so I think that’s what’s at stake here. We need to make sure that that happens,” Trevor said. “I’m worried that my Republican opponent isn’t paying any attention to this issue.”

Republican Matt Podgorski grew up in Northwest Chicago and works in logistics.

He said when he talks to voters they're focused on "kitchen table" issues like the economy, the Chicago Bears' potential move to Arlington Heights and crime.

“I want to hold (Cook County State’s Attorney) Kim Foxx accountable, and really start to get this electronic monitoring program under control,” Podgorski said. “I want to convert the gas tax — which is partially per gallon based and a sales tax on top of that — I want to get rid of the sales tax portion of it, and convert that into a per gallon fee. It’ll actually bring more funds to the (funding) lockbox which is (money) reserved for road construction, and it will cut overall tax burden.”

Podgorski also backs a plan devised by Republican State Rep. Mark Batinick that calls for direct money toward pension debt paired with property tax relief.

Both Trevor and Podgorski made it out of competitive primaries to win their respective party's nominations.

In addition to the 9th District, the 14th, 15th and 17th district Cook County Board races could swing.

There's also a race for the board president position, between Cook County Democratic Party Chair and incumbent Toni Preckwinkle and Republican nominee Bob Fioretti, though Preckwinkle is believed to have an easy advantage.

Various suburban legislative seats are also toss-ups, and many collar county residents will have the chance to vote in one of two rare Illinois Supreme Court races, the outcomes of which will determine which party holds the majority on the state's high court.

Follow Amanda Vinicky on Twitter: @AmandaVinicky

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