Cook County elections: New and old faces enter the fray as candidate filing begins for June primary; Sheriff Tom Dart has 2 challengers so far

Cook County elections: New and old faces enter the fray as candidate filing begins for June primary; Sheriff Tom Dart has 2 challengers so far
·4 min read

The first day for candidates in Cook County’s 2022 elections to officially sign up for the ballot saw heavyweights such as Board President Toni Preckwinkle — as well as multiple primary challengers to four-term incumbent Sheriff Tom Dart — waiting in line with signatures in hand.

Preckwinkle, who has led the Cook County Board since 2010, was the only candidate for her seat who turned in nominating petitions Monday, though former 1st District Commissioner Richard Boykin of Oak Park has announced that he will challenge in her in the primary. Candidates also have until next Monday to submit their signatures.

“This has been a petition season unlike any other with our delayed primary, cold weather, and pandemic safety concerns, but I’m so proud of how the party came together to support our slate and get our candidates on the ballot,” Preckwinkle tweeted Monday.

Three Democratic candidates so far have filed for sheriff. Dart, who has held the seat since 2006 and received the Cook County Democratic Party endorsement, made the 9 a.m. deadline to enter the lottery for the top of the ballot in the June 28 primary.

But so did his opponents Carmen Navarro Gercone, an official with the circuit court clerk’s office and the former first assistant executive director at the sheriff’s office, and Noland Rivera, a veteran sergeant of the Chicago Police Department whose late wife worked as a Cook County correctional officer. Sheila Rivera died of COVID-19 in April 2020.

Rivera said his wife had given him her blessing to run for sheriff, and his motivation to win only strengthened after her death. He criticized Dart for what he described as a “weak” approach to tackling crime as well as his lack of policing or correctional officer bona fides compared to the agency’s rank-and-file staff.

“He’s an absentee sheriff, and now he’s a paper cop as far as I’m concerned,” Rivera said in a phone interview, nodding to Dart receiving a law enforcement certification late last year. “He feels threatened. He knows he’s got more than a fair chance of losing this race.”

Dart’s campaign responded in a statement brushing off Rivera’s criticism.

“Voters are tired of these kind of unsubstantiated, self-interested attacks in today’s politics, as they should be,” the statement said. “Sheriff Dart will continue to focus on aggressively confronting crime in Chicago and the suburbs while developing innovative ways to tackle the significant challenges our communities face.”

Navarro Gercone has been trying to fight a recent change to state law that requires sheriff candidates to hold a law enforcement certification, which is distinct from her own correctional officer qualifications. It remains to be seen whether that law will cause her to be knocked off the ballot if an objection to her petitions is filed.

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Cook County Assessor Fritz Kaegi, a first-term incumbent who ousted longtime Democratic insider Joseph Berrios in 2018, also has an announced primary challenger in Metropolitan Water Reclamation District President Kari Steele, but as of Monday only Kaegi had filed his nominating papers. Kaegi was slated by the Cook County Democrats for reelection, though business groups have hit him hard over what they said were overvaluations of commercial properties.

Incumbent Cook County Treasurer Maria Pappas and Clerk Karen Yarbrough both filed for reelection as well Monday. So far, no one has emerged as challengers.

The Cook County Board stands to see a shake-up this year, with three commissioners retiring and at least two incumbents facing primary challenges.

In the 5th District, Commissioner Deborah Sims is retiring, and has said she wants a Black woman to replace her and hopes to cede her post to Democratic candidate Monica Gordon. Sims is stepping down amid a complaint alleging retaliation against a subordinate who reported sexual harassment in her office.

Gordon is director of government affairs and community relations at Chicago State University. Based on Monday’s filings, Gordon will go up against fellow Democrats Kierra Williams, Hazel Crest Mayor Vernard Alsberry Jr. and Jaylin McClinton in the primary.

Eighth District Commissioner Luis Arroyo Jr. also has two primary opponents as of now: Rory McHale, the current general counsel for the Chicago Office of the Inspector General, and Edwin Reyes, a former commissioner who held Arroyo’s seat from 2009 to 2014 before losing reelection.

Another potential shake-up of the county board may come from the 9th District in the northwest suburbs, where Republican incumbent Peter Silvestri is stepping down this year after holding the seat since 1994. In the running to replace him are Democrats Sam Kukadia and Maggie Trevor, a former contender for state representative of the 54th District, as well as Republican Matt Podgorski. Podgorski is founder of the Northwest Side GOP Club and has the support of the party’s township committeemen.

Lastly, the 17th District race is expected to see a Republican primary race between incumbent Sean Morrison and Elizabeth “Liz” Gorman, a former commissioner from Orland Park. Gorman filed her nominating petitions Monday, though Morrison as yet had not. Two Democratic hopefuls also filed for the seat: Lou Gale, a La Grange village trustee, and Daniel Calandriello, a former Orland Park trustee.

ayin@chicagotribune.com