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Cook County Democrats endorse Alexi Giannoulias in secretary of state race

The three Democrats also seeking the party’s endorsement — Chicago City Clerk Anna Valencia and Ald. David Moore (17th) Ald. Pat Dowell (3rd) — said they’d stay in the race, though Dowell said she’ll have to “assess how I’m going to move forward.” 

Democratic secretary of state candidate Alexi Giannoulias speaks to striking Cook County workers in June.
Democratic secretary of state candidate Alexi Giannoulias speaks to striking Cook County workers in June.
Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times file

The Cook County Democratic Party threw its support behind former Illinois Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias in the race to succeed outgoing Secretary of State Jesse White during their Tuesday slating meeting.

The three Democrats also seeking the party’s endorsement — Chicago City Clerk Anna Valencia and Ald. David Moore (17th) Ald. Pat Dowell (3rd) — said they’d stay in the race, though Dowell said she’ll have to “assess how I’m going to move forward.”

Ald. David Moore (17th), left, in June of 2020; Ald. Pat Dowell (3rd), center, in 2019; City Clerk Anna M. Valencia, right, in 2018. 
Ald. David Moore (17th), left, in June of 2020; Ald. Pat Dowell (3rd), center, in 2019; City Clerk Anna M. Valencia, right, in 2018.
Ashlee Rezin Garcia; Rich Hein/Sun-Times file

That contest was one of several the county party issued an endorsement in Tuesday.

Giannoulias received 526,703 weighted votes from committeepeople who represent the city’s 50 wards and surrounding suburban townships, according to a source with knowledge of the vote breakdown. He needed 478,905 to clinch the endorsement.

In a statement he said support from the party’s ranks is “indicative of the broad-based coalition of support that we’ve received from across the state.”

“I’m proud that these Democratic leaders of Cook County have endorsed our campaign, and I look forward to working with them and fighting for what’s important for working families in the city, suburbs and throughout Illinois,” Giannoulias said in writing.

But not all of the party’s rank and file members were on board with backing the former U.S. Senate candidate.

Before party members decided to support Giannoulias, they had a heated debate about not endorsing anyone in the race, one Northside committeeperson said. That committeeperson also said Dowell and Valencia’s camps pushed for that idea, though it failed to come to fruition during the Tuesday meeting.

That debate, which happened during the party’s executive session, was closed to members of the public.

There was a similar conflict over issuing an endorsement in the race for Cook County assessor, though members ultimately chose to endorse incumbent Fritz Kaegi over challenger Kari Steele, who is currently the president of the Metropolitan Water and Reclamation District.

Chair of the Cook County Democratic Party Toni Preckwinkle brushed aside questions about the infighting, saying the debates over who to endorse were “democracy” in action.

“I think there were two races, clearly, in which passions ran high — the assessor’s race and the secretary of state race — but as I said, this is an open, transparent process and we have our slate,” Preckwinkle said.

Ald. Roderick Sawyer (6th), who heads the party’s committee on countywide races, added that sometimes “democracy is messy.”

“Sometimes we’re in the room and we have opinions about candidates that come before us, but at the end of the day, we put all those differences aside, we support the candidate that wins the selection,” Sawyer said. “... We’ve made that commitment that we’re going to support the members that come out of the party selection committee. We all may have opinions that we had coming in — coming out, we speak one man, one sound.”

Dowell, who is a member of the party’s ranks, said she was disappointed about their decision but thankful for the support she did receive.

“Now I have to assess how I’m going to move forward in terms of this statewide race that I’m very much committed — that I’ve put my heart and soul into, and we’ll make decisions about the race shortly,” Dowell said.

She added that the party’s decision to back Giannoulias wasn’t “an overwhelming endorsement,” which tells her “there still could be a pathway forward.”

In a statement after the party’s endorsement session, Valencia said in writing “nothing worth doing comes easy in life” and she’s in the for people like her parents, working families across the state and others who “continue to fight on” even when things get tough.

“I am in this race for them, and I am staying in the race because I plan to win so that I can be a voice for working families like my own and to show little girls everywhere what’s possible when they persist,” Valencia said in a statement.

Moore said he’s “absolutely” staying in the race.

“This thing is about the people,” Moore said. “If people listened to ... a lot of their own people in their communities ... the people are saying David Moore.”

Asked if he’d done polling to see how state residents feel about his candidacy, Moore said no, “I know already” how people feel.

Other Democrats who received the party’s support ahead of the June 2022 primary include Gov. J.B. Pritzker and Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton; U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth; Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart; and Ald. George Cardenas (12th) in his fight to oust sitting Cook County Board of Review Commissioner Tammy Wendt.