Two closely held races in Illinois will be decided in the March 20 primary and in both races two Democratic incumbents are fending off tough challengers.
The race for Cook County Clerk of the Circuit Court is expected to be among the closes, according to polling analysts.
Incumbent Dorothy Brown is being strongly challenged by Chicago Alderman Ricardo Munoz (22nd ward).
For Brown, who was first elected in 2000, if re-elected she said her number one goal is “to build on the Clerk’s Office’s success in digitizing court records and improve public access to court records.”
Brown has been endorsed by a barrage of elected officials including Illinois Governor Pat Quinn, Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White and Democratic U.S. Representatives Jesse Jackson Jr., Danny K. Davis, Bobby L. Rush, and Dan Lipinski.
Additionally, she said she plans to “provide effective services that meet the vital needs of Cook County residents; and build on the Clerk’s Office nationally recognized reputation for innovation. In the first 100 days, I will work with the Chief Judge to develop a plan for paperless courtrooms.”
If she could change one thing about the clerk office it would be the mandated paper records her office must keep.
“I would like to see the Illinois Supreme Court ease up on its requirement that the Clerk’s Office maintain a paper copy of every document, even those electronically filed,” she explained. “I would like the Illinois Supreme Court to permit the Clerk’s Office to electronically print all filed documents on demand, and to permit the Clerk’s Office to modify the retention policy for storing paper files and permit the long term storage of electronic images. These changes would save the Clerk’s Office the expense of printing and storing paper files in the short and long term. Also, electronic files would be immediately available for judges’ use, thus speeding up the administration of justice.”
Munoz, who has been an alderman since 1993 and is endorsed by Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, said he has different plans for the office if elected.
“I will work to eliminate corruption inside the Clerk’s Office. We will start by cancelling the no-bid contract awarded to an Alabama company represented by a right-wing Republican lobbyist; I will follow the Secretary of State (Jesse White) and others who have banned employee campaign contributions, because it’s the right thing to do.”
One reason Brown said voters should re-elect her is because “I have successfully managed the Office of the Clerk of the Circuit Court of Cook County by bringing significant improvements to a previously antiquated and poorly run system.”
Regardless though, Munoz said there are far better reasons why voters should elect him over Brown.
“As Clerk of the Court, I will focus on that office and eliminate the waste, fraud and inefficiencies that Clerk Brown has created. I am running for Clerk of the Court to restore the dignity and integrity of that Office. No one will have to pay me to keep their jobs. The taxpayers won’t have to give me a chauffeur to get me to come into work. I will drive myself.”
Congressional races are also expected to be close especially in the Second Congressional District currently represented by Jesse Jackson Jr., son of civil rights leader the Rev. Jesse L. Jackson Sr.
The race pits Democratic incumbent Jackson Jr. fighting off challenger and former Democratic U.S. Rep. Debbie Halvorson. The district was recently redrawn following the 2010 census and now stretches from the Hyde Park community on the South Side to Kankakee, which is 59 miles south of Chicago.
Jackson, who was first elected in 1995, said he is the best candidate because “I have the experience, knowledge, connections and credibility to not only introduce and fight for progressive ideas, but to deliver the necessary services to help all the residents in the 2nd District. (Plus) I have already brought $940 million to the Second Congressional District.”
However, Halvorson said she is a better candidate because unlike Jackson she does not bet the ranch on one project as she claimed Jackson has done with his proposed airport in Peotone.
“I am a better candidate than Congressman Jackson because I’m the kind of
person who when I say something, I do it. I don’t put all my eggs in one
basket and then ignore the basket when a personal problem arises,” she said.
If re-elected to an eighth term the congressman explained that he has three main goals he plans to complete before the next election.
“I will seek an appointment to chair or serve as minority leader on a House Appropriations Subcommittee as a result of my seniority in Congress; I anticipate breaking ground for construction of the Abraham Lincoln National Airport in the south suburbs because I will convince Gov. Quinn to give Abraham Lincoln National Airport Commission a lease for the state-owned land where the airport will be built under a public-private partnership; and I will further develop the infrastructure at the former USX Southworks site.”
The Southworks site is located in the seventh ward on Chicago’s far Southeast Side, which is presented by his wife Alderman Sandi Jackson.
But Halvorson has different goals for the second district if elected back to Congress.
“My goals for my first 100 days in office (if elected) is to create jobs by investing in our infrastructure; improve our schools by fighting for grants and other forms of funding; and giving many members of our community a second chance by restoring funding for the Second Chance Act.”
And the fact that the district is 50 percent Black is not an obstacle for Halvorson, who is white and lives in south suburban Crete.
“I realize that the population in the Second Congressional District is half Black and historically has supported Jackson throughout his tenure,” explained Halvorson. “But I don’t think race will matter to the voters who are hurting for jobs and economic growth in their district.”