Local voters may not stand to powerfully reorient the state’s politics this midterm election as they did four years ago, but state and county elected officials are nevertheless about to face voters again.
The Chicago Board of Elections has opened its early voting sites in the Loop at 191 N. Clark St. and in its office, 69 W. Washington, 6th Floor. Other sites in the wards and on the University of Chicago campus will open beginning on Monday, Oct. 24. Vote-by-mail applications are being accepted through Thursday, Nov. 3. Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 8.
An overwhelmingly Democratic congressional district will choose longtime Rep. Bobby Rush’s (D-1st) successor in Washington.
Judges are on the ballot, as is a state constitutional amendment enshrining workers’ rights and some advisory referendums in local precincts.
Local state legislative races
One category without any political intrigue, however, is local state legislative races. Kenwood resident Lori Yokoyama, the 4th Ward’s Republican committeewoman, won her party’s nomination run in the 25th state House district, but she withdrew her candidacy on Aug. 30. That means all Hyde Park-Kenwood legislators — Sen. Robert Peters (D-13th) and Reps. Curtis J. Tarver II (D-25th) and Kam Buckner (D-26th) — are running unopposed.
Neither is there any drama in the state legislative districts to the area’s west: Sen. Mattie Hunter (D-3rd) is running unopposed, as is Rep. Lamont Robinson (D-5th) after his Republican opponent, Robert L. Fortune II, was removed from the ballot in September.
A constitutional amendment
Leading all Illinoisans’ ballots is a proposed constitutional amendment to add a fundamental right to labor union organization and collective bargaining to the state constitution. It would also prohibit the state or any local unit of government from enacting “any law that interferes with, negates, or diminishes the right of employees to organize and bargain collectively over their wages, hours, and other terms and conditions of employment and workplace safety.”
The provision is intended to prevent passage of any state or local “right to work” laws, which allow employees to opt out of their workplace union or skip out on paying dues.
Senator, governor and other state races
One-term incumbent U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D), one of her party's strongest congressional voices on foreign policy and military issues, is running for reelection against suburban lawyer Kathy Salvi, a conservative Republican.
After that on the ballot is the gubernatorial election. Gov. J.B. Pritzker is facing off against state Sen. Darren Bailey (55th), a Republican farmer from downstate Xenia. The candidates’ views diverge widely on just about every topic, from abortion to state spending to pandemic response to addressing gun violence.
In the race for attorney general, incumbent Kwame Raoul and Republican private practice attorney Thomas DeVore differ starkly on a number of issues, with the AG’s response to COVID-19 executive orders leading that list. DeVore was a frequent challenger of the governor’s executive order authority throughout the pandemic, while Raoul defended that authority in court.
The two have also clashed over the role of the attorney general’s office in prosecuting certain crimes, a decision that is traditionally left to locally elected state’s attorneys. In particular, DeVore has been an outspoken critic of Cook County State’s Attorney Kimberly Foxx, arguing that she has refused to bring charges in felony theft cases that involve less than $1,000. He said of Foxx at the Illinois State Fair in August, “she better get to prosecuting or we'll find a way to prosecute her,” raising questions about whether he would use the office to target his political opponents.
At an Oct. 11 forum, Raoul said, “Those are dangerous statements, particularly in today's environment,” adding, “There have been prosecutors who have been prosecuted for abusing their authority in political ways, and somebody who will overtly make these statements as a candidate for attorney general should not be let anywhere near the door of the attorney general's office.”
The race for secretary of state has no incumbent, as Jesse White, who has held the job since 1999, is retiring. The Democrat and Republican running, former state Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias and state Rep. Dan Brady (105th), respectively, each have a long list of initiatives they would like to implement to modernize the secretary of state’s office.
Giannoulias has said he’d look to create a mobile app, and by driving many services online he’d cut down foot traffic at facilities “anywhere from 50 to 70%.” That would allow the office to retrain some driver services employees to serve as “office advocates” to help individuals through the system, especially seniors and individuals with disabilities.
He’d also look to implement a “skip-the-line” program to allow driver services visitors to pre-register, arrive at a specified time and move to the front of the line. He’d also explore digital IDs and driver licenses, creating kiosks at driver facilities, and creating pop-up offices at libraries and community colleges. He’d also consider implementing online vision tests if it’s proven it can be done safely.
Brady has his own long list of initiatives, including moving things online, using libraries and community colleges as satellite sites, maximizing staff training and capabilities, and making the SOS website more user friendly. One focus has been an electronic lien and title transfer program that’s been written into state law for years but has languished without proper implementation. It’s something Giannoulias wants to implement as well.
In Illinois, the position of chief fiscal officer is that of comptroller. Democrat Susana Mendoza has been elected to that post twice, for a partial term beginning in December 2016 before gaining reelection in 2018. She touts the reduction of a $16 billion bill backlog to a standard 30-day billing cycle, the state’s largest-ever $1 billion balance in its rainy-day fund and a pension payment that went $500 million beyond statutory levels in the current fiscal year as some of her greatest accomplishments.
Her opponent, Shannon Teresi, is a newcomer to state politics and is currently the McHenry County auditor. It’s an experience, she said, that will help her root out “waste, fraud and abuse” in state government — one of her most-repeated reasons for running.
The race for treasurer — the state’s chief investment officer — pits two-term incumbent Michael Frerichs against Republican Tom Demmer, a deputy minority leader in the General Assembly from the 90th district and House GOP point person on budget issues.
Frerichs touts more than $1 billion in investment gains as his greatest achievement while emphasizing his administrative work on unclaimed property, a state college savings plan and other programs overseen by the office. Demmer has focused his race on being a statewide check on Democratic power when it comes to tax and budget issues.
Mid-South Side congressional races
In the congressional races, Democrat Jonathan L. Jackson, son of civil rights leader Rev. Jesse Jackson, won a scattershot June primary against a cattle call of candidates. He recently told the Tribune that the connections he has on Capitol Hill through his father’s Rainbow/PUSH Coalition primes him well for congressional service and that a goal is to bring more high-tech manufacturing to the 1st district. He runs against GOP candidate Eric Carlson, who is angling that Black voters are disenchanted with longtime Democratic power but is hampered by having spent six years in prison for sexual assault.
Rep. Robin Kelly (D-2nd) is running for reelection after an uneven year: she got a bill passed to enact secure child-resistant safety closures on consumer products and negotiated to pass a bipartisan gun violence bill this summer, but she withdrew from the race to lead the state Democratic Party in the face of defeat and saw little of her priorities included in the congressional Inflation Reduction Act.
Her Republican opponent is Thomas Lynch, a member of the Iroquois County Board, who is running a decidedly conservative campaign with some libertarian streaks. He wants to dramatically cut federal spending, alleging it is behind the ongoing inflationary surge.
County Board President Toni Preckwinkle is running what is widely believed to be her final reelection campaign. She listed her accomplishments to the Herald before the primary: a budget deficit nearly closed, increased transparency by putting county documents and records online, a Cook County Health system shored up for the future by federal investments and more people enrolled in the county's Medicaid program.
Opposing her as a Republican is former Ald. Bob Fioretti (2nd), who is running a law-and-order campaign and has promised to use the county's power of the purse to leverage change in the courts and state's attorney's office. Libertarian Thea Tsatsos is also running.
County Commissioner Bill Lowry (D-3rd) is also running, though is unopposed, as is local county Board of Review Commissioner Larry Rogers, Jr. That board decides complaints about decisions made by the county assessor.
County Clerk Karen Yarbrough, a one-term Democrat, is running for reelection against former county Commissioner Tony Peraica (R-16th) and Libertarian Joseph Schreiner. Sheriff Tom Dart (D), in office since 2006, is running for reelection against Republican Lupe Aguirre and Libertarian Brad Sandefur. County Treasurer Maria Pappas (D), in office since 1998, is running for reelection against Republican Peter Kopsaftis and Libertarian Michael Murphy. County Assessor Fritz Kaegi (D), in office since 2018, is running against Libertarian Nico Tsatsoulis.
Five candidates are running for six-year terms in the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District, which oversees infrastructure like sewers and water treatment. Candidates include Democrats Mariyana T. Spyropoulos, Patricia Theresa Flynn and Yumeka Brown, Republican R. Cary Capparelli and Green Mark E. Buettner; voters choose three on their ballots for that race. There is also a race for an unexpired two-year term between Democrat Daniel "Pogo" Pogorzelski and Green Toneal M. Jackson.
Several candidates are running to be judges of the appellate and circuit courts; though many are running unopposed, they must win 60% of the vote to be retained. Nonprofit journalism organization Injustice Watch has put together its Judicial Voter Guide with information about the candidates' qualifications, bar organizations opinions and reporting about their backgrounds. It can be reached at injusticewatch.org.
County voters will decide whether to raise property taxes an average of $1.50 a month for the Cook County Forest Preserves, which have a massive maintenance backlog. The referendum may raise $40 million; district officials have suggested a physical expansion may happen if it passes.
And there are two advisory referendums on the ballot in two local precincts. Voters in several more precincts are going to be asked if "the City of Chicago and the Chicago Park District (should) stop cutting down trees in Jackson Park and preserve the trees in South Shore Cultural Center Park?" The “Save Jackson Park” referendum passed overwhelmingly in three 5th Ward precincts in the June primary election.
Voters in several other wards will decide on a referendum asking whether a local property tax increase of no more than 0.025% should go into effect for a free Southeast Expanded Mental Health Services Program. Other referendums to that effect are on the ballot in West Town and Humboldt Park; one passed in Bronzeville in 2020. The referendums are linked to longstanding controversy over the closure of many of the city’s mental health clinics.