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Former Jason Van Dyke lawyer in ‘very good position’ to oust sole Republican from seat on tax appeals panel

Democrat Tammy Wendt leads Republican Dan Patlak by 3,695 votes — or about 0.5% — in the race for a seat on the board that reviews and potentially modifies property assessments in Cook County.

Democrat Tammy Wendt, left, and Republican Dan Patlak, right, in September.
Democrat Tammy Wendt, left, and Republican Dan Patlak, right, address the Chicago Sun-Times Editorial Board during endorsement interviews for the Cook County Board of Review race in September.
Screen images.

The sole Republican on the Cook County Board of Review might lose his seat.

Ten days after the final votes were cast, Democrat Tammy Wendt was leading Republican Dan Patlak by 3,695 votes — or about 0.5% — in the race for a seat on the three-member board that reviews and potentially modifies property assessments in Cook County.

Frank Calabrese, a campaign adviser for Wendt, said Friday the lawyer is “in a very good position” to win the seat.

“The results should be much clearer later today, but I expect Tammy Wendt’s numbers to grow — she’s been consistently winning about 60% of mail ballots in every batch” that election officials have counted, Calabrese said.

Patlak is a former Wheeling Township assessor who has been on the Board of Review since 2010. Wendt is a former assistant Cook County state’s attorney best known for being part of the defense team that represented former Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke in the shooting death of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald.

A spokesman for Patlak did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“Tammy’s really excited,” Calabrese said. “She ran a kind of grassroots campaign, and she wasn’t really supported by a lot of the big money interests that are associated with running campaigns.”

That includes the county’s Democratic Party, which Calabrese said did not support Wendt after her primary win over Abdelnasser Rashid, who worked on Cook County Assessor Fritz Kaegi’s campaign and later in Kaegi’s office.

Cook Board of Review Democratic primary candidates Tammy Wendt, left, and Abdelnasser Rashid in January.
Cook Board of Review Democratic primary candidates Tammy Wendt, left, and Abdelnasser Rashid meet with the Sun-Times Editorial Board in January.
Rich Hein/Sun-Times file

Wendt’s campaign was made up of a “very supportive family and friends network that helped her get the word out” and overcome a significant money gap between herself and Patlak, Calabrese said.

Wendt helped defend Van Dyke, who was convicted of second-degree murder and 16 counts of aggravated battery for the shooting death of the 17-year-old McDonald in 2014.

That was just one case in a long legal career, she told the Chicago Sun-Times in January.

Jason Van Dyke listens to closing statements with defense attorney Tammy Wendt during his trial for the shooting death of Laquan McDonald, at the Leighton Criminal Court Building in 2018.
Jason Van Dyke listens to closing statements with defense attorney Tammy Wendt during his trial for the shooting death of Laquan McDonald, at the Leighton Criminal Court Building in 2018.
Antonio Perez/pool/Chicago Tribune

Wendt said during a sit-down with the Sun-Times’ Editorial Board earlier this year that she’s practiced real estate law, which involves property taxes, for almost 30 years and mostly did residential appeals.

“We can talk about the thousands of other cases that I’ve had too, if you want to, but what does that have to do with property taxes?” Wendt asked a Sun-Times reporter questioning her about the Van Dyke case. “This is about who is the qualified candidate, and I think everyone can agree it’s the person who’s got the 27 years [of] experience.”