The GOP has put up its largest slate in years to run in Cook County. Some candidates, like ex-alderman Bob Fioretti, are former Democrats.

The GOP has put up its largest slate in years to run in Cook County. Some candidates, like ex-alderman Bob Fioretti, are former Democrats.
·4 min read

A familiar name on local Democratic ballots for much of the last decade, former 2nd Ward Chicago alderman Bob Fioretti is running for office again: as a Republican. He joins two other former Democrats and a Democratic staffer running in Cook County in the fall election.

Fioretti has run and lost in nearly every campaign cycle since opting not to seek reelection for alderman in 2015. He ran for mayor instead, eventually endorsing incumbent Mayor Rahm Emanuel. He finished fourth, and last, in the 2020 Democratic primary race for Cook County state’s attorney, and placed 12th out of 14 candidates when he ran for mayor again in 2019, the year voters elected Lori Lightfoot.

In 2018, Fioretti lost the Democratic primary for Cook County Board president to incumbent Toni Preckwinkle. This year, Fioretti is challenging her bid for a fourth term, this time as a Republican.

Fioretti — whose campaign against Preckwinkle last time focused on the backlash to her short-lived tax on sweetened drinks — is one of five countywide office seekers who have been backed by the Cook County and Chicago Republican Party to run in vacant ballot positions in November.

It might be a tough sell for Republicans: Aside from Cook County being generally inhospitable for conservatives, Fioretti also built his reputation as a strong progressive while serving on the City Council. He’s been dogged by other controversies, including legal action from campaign employees and companies alleging they weren’t paid for work at Fioretti’s campaign and private law practice.

Still, Fioretti is among three dozen GOP candidates running in Cook County this year, the highest number “in more than a generation,” Cook County GOP Chairman Sean Morrison said in a news release. “Cook County voters are demanding a choice at the ballot box. They will now have a clear choice in November.”

Morrison is one of only two Republicans on the Cook County Board and faces Democrat Daniel Calandriello in the Nov. 8 election. The other GOP commissioner, Pete Silvestri, is not seeking reelection. Matt Podgorski won the Republican primary in June to replace Silvestri; his opponent is Democrat Maggie Trevor.

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Joining Fioretti on the Republican slate is a veteran of county politics, attorney Tony Peraica — a fellow party-switcher. He filed Monday to run for Cook County clerk and against incumbent Karen Yarbrough.

Peraica ran as a Democrat in 1994, then as a Republican in 1998 to wage an unsuccessful bid for county treasurer against Maria Pappas. He won his Cook County Board race in 2002, representing the Southwest suburbs. He ran and lost races for board president in 2006 and state’s attorney in 2008. Peraica lost his seat on the Cook County Board in 2010 to Democrat Jeff Tobolski, then was found guilty of a misdemeanor for destroying some of Tobolski’s campaign signs.

Peraica has made news more recently for representing a failed challenger in a lawsuit against then-House Speaker Mike Madigan for allegedly putting sham candidates on the ballot, and another against Madigan and Ald. Marty Quinn, unsuccessfully alleging the two conspired to sabotage a young aldermanic challenger.

Also on the November ballot for the GOP: Todd Thielmann, who until recently served as chief of staff to Democratic Cook County Board of Review Commissioner Tammy Wendt.

Thielmann, Wendt’s cousin, was eventually fired after the county’s ethics body sued Wendt for “flagrantly” violating a ban on nepotism. Thielmann is running for assessor, hoping to take on incumbent Fritz Kaegi.

Wendt herself lost her reelection bid in the Democratic primary to Chicago Ald. George Cardenas. He will face Republican Robert Cruz in the fall.

Another member of the GOP slate is lawyer and former Chicago police detective Lupe Aguirre, who ran for the Cook County Board in 2018 as a Democrat in the 2nd District. He’s seeking to take on Sheriff Tom Dart. Businessman Peter Kopsaftis is the Republican candidate for treasurer against Pappas.

“Cook County Democrats’ failing record on inflation, taxes, crime and corruption will be put on full display for voters. That is why Democrats will work as hard as possible to challenge and remove these Republican candidates from the November ballot,” Morrison said in the same release. “They do not want to discuss, debate or defend their horrendous record on all of those important kitchen table issues impacting families across Cook County.”

Anyone seeking to challenge those candidates’ petitions can do so for the next week. In a statement, Cook County Democratic Party executive director Jacob Kaplan says it “does not launch or fund ballot challenges.”