Spyropoulos Defeats Martinez in Race for Cook County Circuit Court Clerk

Incumbent Cook County Circuit Court Clerk Iris Martinez (left) faces a challenge from Mariyana Spyropoulos (right), a member of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District. (Provided)Incumbent Cook County Circuit Court Clerk Iris Martinez (left) faces a challenge from Mariyana Spyropoulos (right), a member of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District. (Provided)

Mariyana Spyropoulos, backed by the Cook County Democratic Party and buoyed by massive amounts of cash she funneled into her campaign, denied Cook County Circuit Court Clerk Iris Martinez a second term in office.

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Spyropoulos led Martinez with 65.7% of the vote to Martinez’s 34.3%, with 69% of precincts reporting, enough to win, the Associated Press declared.

Elected four years ago to replace scandal-plagued Dorothy Brown as Cook County’s Circuit Court clerk, Martinez was beset by ethical questions and lagged far behind in fundraising.

The race for the circuit court clerk was a test of not just the power of the Cook County Democratic Party and its president, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, but also the strength of the progressive political movement that coalesced behind Brandon Johnson in 2023 and elected him mayor.

Cook County Circuit Court Clerk Race

While the office of circuit court clerk might not be as well-known as other county offices up for grabs on Tuesday, it is a powerful perch. The clerk controls more than 1,400 jobs and handles everything from evictions to traffic tickets to child support.

Spyropoulos will face Republican Lupe Aguirre, a private attorney and Chicago police officer, and Libertarian Michael Murphy, an information technology systems administrator, in November’s general election.

In 2020, Martinez won a four-way primary to replace Brown, who was in office for 20 years, without the backing of the Democratic Party.

Since taking office, Martinez has been at loggerheads with the progressive Democrats in Chicago, who have notched a series of victories for state, city and county offices.

Martinez was also trailing in her other bid for reelection. Ald. Rossana Rodriguez Sanchez (33rd Ward) led the race to serve as the Northwest Side ward’s Democratic committeeperson with 59%, with 94% of the votes counted, according to early returns. That contest beaome a grudge match, complete with negative campaign ads and fierce attacks.

Committeepeople — one each for the Democratic and Republican parties — slate candidates, oversee voter registration, work to boost voter turnout and ensure elections run smoothly. In many wards, the alderperson — or his or her close ally — serves as the committeeperson to consolidate power and operations. The job was much more powerful before federal judges dismantled the city’s political patronage system and ended the ability of committeepeople to hand out plum positions.

In the mayoral election, Martinez endorsed former Chicago Public Schools CEO Paul Vallas, only to see him lose the election and the 33rd Ward to Johnson, who earned 53% of the vote.

Spyropoulos had the support of progressive public employee unions and the Teamsters, who represent most of the office’s employees, as well as a distinct financial advantage over Martinez.

Spyropoulos reported $1.3 million in contributions to state election officials since December, with the bulk of that coming from herself and relatives. In mid-February, Martinez had about $128,000 in three campaign funds, records show.

Martinez was dogged with questions about how she ran the clerk's office. She took political help and campaign contributions from employees, as first reported by the Chicago Tribune. In addition, WBEZ reported Martinez’s office had been erroneously putting felonies on the records of people in some diversion programs for at least three years. Most recently, the Illinois Answers Project reported that Martinez’s office violated Illinois juvenile court laws by exposing the personal data of at least 5,000 children, leaving the information publicly available for nearly two weeks.

Spyropoulos has vowed to modernize the office while operating ethically.

Cook County Board of Review Race

Larry Rogers, who has been a member of the Cook County Board of Review since 2004, led Larecia Tucker, the assessor clerk for Rich Township, as he sought reelection.

With nearly 90% of the vote counted, Rogers led Tucker with about 60% of the vote, according to the Cook County clerk’s office.

While Rogers has the backing of the Cook County Democratic Party, Tucker was endorsed by Cook County Assessor Fritz Kaegi.

Rogers had the backing of Preckwinkle and the Cook County Democratic Party in his bid for another four-year term.

But that did not spare him a serious challenge from Tucker.

Tucker’s challenge has been boosted by spending from a political action committee funded entirely by Cook County Assessor Fritz Kaegi. As of March 12, Kaegi had contributed $680,000 to the Stop Tax Corruption Cook County committee.

Kaegi and Rogers have long been at odds over the county’s tax assessment system.

As assessor, Kaegi is charged with setting the value of every Cook County property. The owners of those properties can appeal that decision to the Board of Review, where Rogers has consistently rejected the determinations made by Kaegi’s office.

That has complicated Kaegi’s efforts to shift the property tax burden in Cook County from homeowners to those who own commercial properties.

In addition, Rogers and Kaegi have traded accusations about who was at fault for delaying property tax bills for millions of Cook County residents during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Since the end of December, Rogers, an attorney, has reported $1.1 million in contributions. By comparison, Tucker has reported just $63,000 in contributions since the end of December, state records show.

There are no Republican or Libertarian candidates running for Board of Review commissioner in November.

Contact Heather Cherone: @HeatherCherone | (773) 569-1863 | [email protected]

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