Preckwinkle, Yarbrough win easily over Republican challengers

Toni Preckwinkle declared victory in the race for Cook County Board president, and Karen Yarbrough handily won another term as Cook County clerk.

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Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle talks with customers while in line at Manny’s Deli. before polls closed on Tuesday, November 8, 2022. | Brian Rich/Sun-Times

Brian Rich/Sun-Times

Complete coverage of the local and national primary and general election, including results, analysis and voter resources to keep Chicago voters informed.

Two of the most powerful women in Cook County Democratic politics — Toni Preckwinkle and Karen Yarbrough — easily defeated their GOP challengers, Bob Fioretti and Tony Peraica.

Preckwinkle led the race for Cook County Board president all night against Fioretti, a former Chicago alderman, and Libertarian Thea Tsatsos, winning by a wide margin — 67% to 30% and 3%, with 96.7% precincts reporting.

Preckwinkle said she was comfortable declaring victory, saying in her fourth term she will “focus on the distribution of Cook County’s $1 billion in American Rescue Plan Act funding.”

Preckwinkle winning her fourth term leading the Cook County Board of Commissioners sets the stage for her holding that office longer than anyone except George W. Dunne, the party stalwart who served nearly 22 years.

The Hyde Park Democrat faced a repeat foe in Fioretti, who has run six campaigns in seven years for four different offices. He challenged Preckwinkle for her seat four years ago — although this time he did so as a Republican.

Fioretti had centered his campaign on Preckwinkle’s record on crime and criticized her use of federal COVID-19 relief funds.

“I feel good, no matter the outcome tonight,” Fioretti said as the results came in. “This is a question of fiscal responsibility and making sure we back our law enforcement and keeping our communities safe.”

Preckwinkle led the board as the county saw a surge in violence in the wake of the pandemic, an issue felt across the country, but Fioretti said the incumbent’s move to depopulate jails “put the county in danger.”

Preckwinkle defended her position on crime, saying it’s a “local responsibility” and she hopes crime will begin to trend downward as the pandemic wanes. She also touted the way county officials targeted funding for social safety net programs that she says will better deter crime.

One such program is the Promise Guaranteed Income Pilot, which will provide $500 a month for two years to 3,250 residents whose household income is at or below 250% of the poverty level.

Democrat Yarbrough beat Republican Peraica and Libertarian Joseph Schreiner in the Cook County clerk race — 70% to 27% and 2%, with 98.1% of precincts reporting. A spokeswoman for Yarbrough said she spent the day visiting polling locations rather than having a campaign party.

County Clerk Karen Yarbrough at a news conference in June 2022.

County Clerk Karen Yarbrough at a news conference in June 2022.

Brian Rich/Sun-Times file

Both Fioretti and Peraica shared a campaign party at the Billy Goat Tavern, 1535 W. Madison St., which was relatively empty early in the evening. There was little evidence of a party — no signs or music playing — but seven TVs were tuned into local news coverage of the general elections.

Just over a dozen supporters showed up shortly before the polls closed with some sporting hats proclaiming “Fire Pritzker” and pro-Trump “MAGA” hats.

Yarbrough’s victory will not only make her the first African American and first woman to serve as Cook County clerk but now the first African American and woman to win re-election.

The Maywood Democrat centered her campaign on her work modernizing the voting process in the elections unit by acquiring new touch screen equipment and introducing a new voter registration and election management system. She also added a cybersecurity division that protects the clerk’s networks, machinery, software and data.

But Peraica said the incumbent has done little to improve the voting experience.

“I’m glad the campaign is at an end and voters had a choice, that’s the most important thing,” Peraica said. “Whatever the results are, I’m at peace with it.”

Democrats were victorious in other county races.

Incumbent Cook County Sheriff Democrat Tom Dart defeated challengers Republican Lupe Aguirre and Libertarian Brad Sandefur — 73% to 24% and 3%, with 98.1% of precincts reporting.

Democrat Maria Pappas won another term as Cook County treasurer. With 98.1% of precincts reporting, Pappas beat Republican Peter Kopsaftis and Libertarian Michael Murphy — 74% to 23% and 2%.

Democrat Fritz Kaegi bested Libertarian challenger Nico Tsatsoulis in the Cook County assessors race 82% to 18%, with 98.1% of precincts reporting.

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