When Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle raised her hand to replace Joe Berrios as county Democratic chairman, some of us wondered why she wanted the hassle.
We now have at least a partial answer.
Democratic officials said Thursday that the county party, newly under Preckwinkle’s control, is targeting three of the County Board’s four remaining Republican commissioners for defeat in the November election.
If successful, the effort would all but wipe out Preckwinkle’s opposition, including commissioners who led the fight against her proposed county pop tax.
Armed with an initial $500,000 donation from J.B. Pritzker’s campaign for governor, Preckwinkle’s county party apparatus already has paid for polling in all three targeted races, as well as for opposition research.
Jacob Kaplan, executive director of the Cook County Democratic Party, said that’s only the beginning of an outlay that will “likely” exceed $100,000 on behalf of each of its endorsed commissioner candidates — maybe much more.
Kaplan wouldn’t say how much the party plans to spend, but said, “We’re all in.”
All three targeted candidates represent suburban districts that have traditionally been Republican strongholds, but are showing some signs of change.
Hillary Clinton carried each of those districts in the 2016 general election against Donald Trump, while gubernatorial nominee Pat Quinn was clobbered by Bruce Rauner in 2014.
Democrats are hoping their candidates this time can take advantage of a changing suburban electorate and ride an anti-Trump “blue wave” to victory.
Even if the Democratic commissioner candidates lose in those districts, party strategists expect their efforts to drive a bigger Democratic turnout that will help Pritzker to victory.
The targeted Republicans include Timothy Schneider of Elgin, Sean Morrison of Palos Park and Gregg Goslin of Glenview.
Schneider is the state GOP chairman, and Morrison is the county GOP chairman, which make them especially inviting targets for Democrats wanting to hold someone responsible for Trump’s presidency.
“We will certainly be tying these candidates to Donald Trump,” Kaplan said.
Still, there is the possibility that voters will believe Preckwinkle is overreaching. As one Democratic operative put it Thursday, is it really important for Democrats to control a 16-1 majority on the county board instead of the current 13-4?
Preckwinkle was not available for comment, but Kaplan said Democrats could not pass up the opportunity to elect more progressive leaders to the County Board.
I really would have liked to give you the Republican response to this, but couldn’t get one.
Although it may seem axiomatic that the Cook County Democratic Party would be supporting its own County Board candidates, the party has never made this sort of a push in commissioner races, at least not in recent memory, Kaplan said. Cook County did not switch to single-member commissioner districts until 1994.
Running against Schneider is Kevin Morrison, of Elk Grove Village, a former aide to U.S. Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi. Kevin Morrison, 28, would be the first openly LGBTQ member of the county board.
Sean Morrison’s opponent is Abdelnasser Rashid, of Justice, deputy chief of staff to Cook County Clerk David Orr. Rashid, 29, would be the first Arab Muslim to hold county office.
Facing Goslin is Scott Britton, an attorney who is a village trustee in Glenview.
The only Republican commissioner not targeted by Democrats is Peter Silvestri, the former mayor of Elmwood Park, who operates in a district where Democrats and Republicans over the years have formed a non-aggression pact.
I reported Sunday on the results from the poll taken for Rashid that showed him slightly ahead in essentially a tossup race with Sean Morrison.
Kaplan declined to provide results from the other two polls, but claimed the polls show: “We are ahead in all three districts.”
“When we saw the numbers, we had to get involved,” Kaplan said. “We’re going to have candidates that stand up for the people who need it most rather than standing up for Donald Trump.”