Let the jockeying begin for Brandon Johnson’s Cook County Board seat

A replacement for the mayor-elect’s seat on the board will be chosen by a group of elected Democratic committeemen. The new commissioner would serve a little over two years.

SHARE Let the jockeying begin for Brandon Johnson’s Cook County Board seat
A meeting of the Cook County Board of Commissioners.

A seat on the Cook County Board of Commissioners is up for grabs after Brandon Johnson’s victory in the Chicago mayoral election.

Ashlee Rezin / Chicago Sun-Times

With Cook County Commissioner Brandon Johnson set to become Chicago’s next mayor, the jockeying begins to pick his replacement on the county board.

That decision falls to a group of elected Democratic committee people in Johnson’s district, which encompasses parts of the West Side and west suburbs, including Oak Park.

Illinois Senate President Don Harmon, D-Oak Park, would likely lead the proceedings as committeeman for Oak Park Township, which makes up the largest part of Johnson’s district in terms of votes in the last November general election, said Jacob Kaplan, executive director of the Cook County Democratic Party.

As for whether there are any preferred candidates to fill the seat, the county’s Democratic Party isn’t saying.

“I have not heard any names yet,” Kaplan said.

A campaign spokesman for Johnson said there were no recommendations from Johnson, to his knowledge.

A spokesman for Harmon said: “There will be plenty of time for politics after everyone gets a moment to relax from the election [that just took place]. Right now, everyone is focused on governing and the transition.”

Johnson’s replacement will become one of 17 commissioners on a majority-Democratic board, overseeing a nearly $9 billion annual budget.

Cook is one of the biggest counties in the U.S., with a vast circuit court system, jail, public health system and large Medicaid health insurance plan called CountyCare for low-income and disabled residents. The majority of the county’s budget goes to public safety and health care.

The appointed commissioner can’t serve longer than 28 months, according to a Cook County ordinance. Johnson won re-election to the board in November, which means there will be a special election during the next general election in 2024 to serve the remainder of his four-year term.

The committee replacement process kicks into high gear once Johnson resigns, Kaplan said. Johnson is slated to be sworn in as mayor on May 15, according to the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners.

Kristen Schorsch covers public health and Cook County government for WBEZ.

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