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Party bosses hear closing arguments in state Supreme Court, other races

The party’s Supreme Court committee recommended Neville get the endorsement, but the 80 Chicago ward and suburban township Democratic committeemen won’t make their endorsement decision in that race, or other judicial and countywide races, until Friday.

Democrats running for the state’s top court:
Democrats running for the state’s top court: Top row, left to right: Supreme Court Justice P. Scott Neville Jr., appellate court justices Nathaniel Howse and Sheldon Harris; bottom row, left to right: appellate court justices Jesse Reyes and Cynthia Cobbs and lawyer Daniel Epstein. Not pictured Appellate Justice Margaret McBride.
Provide, file, YouTube and campaign photos.

Supreme Court Justice P. Scott Neville Jr. on Thursday moved closer to clinching the endorsement of the Cook County Democratic Party — despite questions about a property tax break someone received on his dead mother’s home.

Neville and others running for the coveted court seat made their pitches for support Thursday to the party bosses.

The party’s Supreme Court committee recommended Neville get the endorsement, but the 80 Chicago ward and suburban township Democratic committeemen won’t make their endorsement decision in that race, or other judicial and countywide races, until Friday.

The committee’s decision to recommend Neville came in spite of questions raised by an NBC 5 report that Neville received a homeowners’ exemption on his deceased mother’s home. Neville’s mother died 28 years ago, but that home has received a homeowners exemption for more than 15 years, according to the report. The law says one must live in the home where they’re trying to get the tax break.

Neville said the Cook County Assessor’s Office had concluded, after its investigation, that “there was no evidence of wrongdoing” on his part.

“Members of my committee spoke with the assessor, and they pointed out there’s no record that I filed for a homestead exemption,” Neville said.

“I haven’t filed one, there’s no record of one.”

Scott Smith, a spokesman for the Cook County assessor’s office, explained that lack of a record in a statement.

“With the approval of the Local Records Commission, various records, including Homeowners’ Exemption applications from the year 2000, were destroyed by the Assessor’s Office,” Smith said. “Our electronic records indicate whether a property received a homeowner’s exemption, but they do not reflect the name of the applicant. Therefore, we do not have the name of the person who filed for the exemption on this property in 2000.”

Smith said Neville’s name is on the deed, “so he’s responsible for repayment of the erroneous exemption and has been in contact with our office about doing so.”

Neville says his committee has contacted the office and they’re “looking into it to see whether or not anything is owed.”

Other candidates for the seat on the bench of the state’s highest court also came out Thursday to make their case for why they should be endorsed.

One of the most interesting moments came when Appellate Justice Sheldon Harris argued real diversity is picking “a candidate who has the best qualifications, the best resume, the person who could win and you do so without regard to any race, color, creed or sex, that is true diversity.”

Harris and Neville are vying for the seat held by retired Justice Charles Freeman, the first African American elected to the state’s top court. Neville and two of the other candidates are black. Harris is white.

“Diversity is not ‘oh lets look for a black, yellow, green person and see if he fits,’ that’s backwards,” Harris said. “The party has had winners in the past, and the reason it’s had winners in the past is knowledgeable people in this party recognized who the winners were, and they backed the winners. I believe I would be the winner.”

Harris and Ald. Jason Ervin (28th), went back and forth on equality and Harris’ understanding of it before Ervin, who is black, asked if Harris understood “the notion of white privilege.”

Ald. Jason Ervin (28th).
Ald. Jason Ervin (28th). File Photo.
Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

“I don’t mean any disrespect sir, but I think you’re being off-base if you think you’re being equal if you pick a candidate based upon their race, color, creed or sex,” Harris said. “That’s what your people have been fighting for years.”

Others seeking the top court spot include appellate court justices Jesse Reyes, Nathaniel Howse, Margaret McBride and Cynthia Cobbs and lawyer Daniel Epstein.

Appellate Justice Sheldon Harris
Appellate Justice Sheldon Harris.
Campaign photo.

A day after Clerk of the Circuit Court Dorothy Brown announced she would not be seeking re-election, the field seeking to take her spot grew by one.

Former Cook County Commissioner Richard Boykin, who was ousted from office after one term last year, said Thursday he wants to be the next clerk of the circuit court. Last month, Boykin said he was eyeing a bid to unseat Cook County States Attorney Kim Foxx.

Boykin sees a run for Brown’s office as a “better situation, because it’s an open seat and I can have maximum impact.”

He intends to appear before Democratic leaders Friday to ask for their endorsement.

He’ll be up against Metropolitan Water Reclamation District Commissioner and former President Mariyana Spyropoulos, Board of Review Commissioner Michael Cabonargi, State Sen. Iris Martinez and lawyer Jacob Meister, who ran against Brown in 2016.

Boykin’s hoping his legislative history will help him woo the democratic committeemen.

“I intend to make the case that they should support me for [the office],” Boykin said. “I hope to persuade them to do that and make the case to Cook County residents too.”