Photo by Dermot Connolly
Cook County Commissioner Sean Morrison (R-17th), at right, spent much of his Election Night party at Hackney's in Palos Park hovering over computer screens, waiting for results to come in for his close race again Democratic challenger Abdelnasser Rashid, of Justice. With him are staff members Richard Riley (left) and Brent Woods. Morrison won the close race.
By Dermot Connolly
The Cook County Board’s 17th District race lived up to predictions that it would be among the closest in the region, with the latest results showing incumbent Commissioner Sean Morrison registering a close win over Democratic challenger Abdelnasser Rashid.
In the other local Cook County Board race, Democrat Donna Miller running unopposed to win her first term as commissioner of the 6th District. The Lynwood resident succeeds Edward Moody, of Chicago Ridge, who chose not to run for election after being appointed to complete the term of Commissioner Joan Murphy when she died in 2016.
As of early Wednesday morning, with all 257 precincts reporting, Morrison, 51, of Palos Park, had 60,290 votes (50.85 percent) to 58,267 (49.15 percent) for Rashid, 29, of Justice, according to Cook County Clerk David Orr’s office.
The numbers were close enough that some observers thought there might be a recount, but Rashid conceded about 10:30 a.m. Wednesday.
"We have fallen just short, but our journey is not over. It is not the outcome we hoped for, but we should be incredibly proud of all that we accomplished together...I offer my congratulations to Sean Morrison and hope that he will be the commissioner that all Cook County families need,” Rashid said in a statement posted on Facebook.
“Today is bittersweet. Ours was a hard-fought campaign with an underdog spirit, and we accomplished so much. We brought attention to the plight of working families and the need for higher wages and paid family and sick leave. We fought for ethics reform and greater openness and accountability in government. We mobilized thousands of new voters. We energized communities to get involved in politics for the first time and saw a whole generation of young people rise to the occasion and be a force for change,” he continued. “I look forward to seeing what we all will accomplish together as we build on this moving forward.”
On Tuesday night, the candidates were both closely watching the results at their respective Election Night parties — Rashid at the Pita, Pita restaurant on LaGrange Road in Orland Park, and Morrison at Hackney’s, a few miles north in Palos Park. Neither was ready to declare victory or accept defeat.
The 17th District includes all or parts of municipalities in the townships of Orland, Palos, Worth, Lyons, Bremen, Elk Grove, Lemont, Leyden, Maine, Proviso and Riverside.
“Today, we dominated 25 precincts in Orland and Palos,” Rashid told a cheering crowd of supporters. “It’s not over yet. Every vote should be counted and we’re going to make sure that they are. We need all mail ballots and provisionals counted to see how close this race really is.”
“We always knew this would come down to the wire and it has. We took on and challenged the chairman of the Cook County Republican Party and look how far we have come,” said the candidate, a Harvard University graduate who left his position as deputy chief of staff for Cook County David Orr to run for his first elective office.
Morrison, who also serves as the Republican committeeman for Palos Township, was appointed to the 17th District seat when Liz Gorman resigned in 2015. She was at his party Tuesday night, watching with everyone else for the results to come in.
Taking a break from the computer screen for a moment, Morrison said he didn’t expect the race to be this close, “Until what I saw was happening with Democrats (winning) all over Illinois.
“J.B. Pritzker spent $350 million on Democratic races across the state, and I think we are seeing the results here,” said Morrison.
Worth Mayor Mary Werner was among the local officials at Morrison’s party.
“Everyone knew I was supporting Sean because he helped us repeal the sweetened beverage tax. That hurt a lot of businesses in Worth,” said Werner. “He is one of the few commissioners who always look out for the taxpayer.”
“I think the Democrats spent a lot of money on these races. But I am still hopeful Sean will win,” said Palos Township Trustee Sharon Brannigan, who was nearby, watching the results projected on a wide screen.
Brannigan herself has been a controversial figure for the past year. She has apologized for comments made on Facebook that Rashid called “outrageous,” which suggested that undocumented Middle Eastern students were coming into local schools, and Muslim immigrants weren’t integrating into the community. But since the comments came to light more than a year ago, protesters calling for her resignation or removal have been attending monthly Palos Township meetings.
The incident has been credited with getting many local Arab-Americans politically active, and Rashid, the son of Palestinian immigrants, cited it as one of many reasons for his candidacy. The deputy state director for Sen. Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign in 2016, Rashid said he driven by his “passion for justice and fairness.”
“No matter what happens, we’ve won already, if you think about it,” said Dave Shalabi of Orland Park, another supporter, looking around at the packed room at Rashid’s party. “Hundreds of people got involved in this effort, and we raised funds from inside and outside the area. And the campaign always took the high ground, always with integrity,” said Shalabi.
In other local races Tuesday night, Cong. Bobby Rush (D-1st) has won another term while state Rep. Fran Hurley (D-35th) also was victorious.
Rush, as expected, easily fended off two challengers to win his 13th term in office with 72.6 percent of the votes — an accomplishment that surprised nobody.
Since 1993, Rush, 71, has represented the heavily Democratic 1st District, which stretches from the lakefront on Chicago’s South Side to Joliet in Will County, taking in all or part of several Chicago neighborhoods and suburbs including Evergreen Park, Oak Lawn, Orland Park, Palos Heights and Worth.
Facing him on the ballot were Republican business owner Jimmy Lee Tillman II and Thomas Rudbeck, 41, a Chicago real estate developer and political newcomer who ran as an Independent. Tillman, the son of former Chicago Alderman Dorothy Tillman, ran against Rush twice before, in 2012 and 2014, with the same result. He tried again in 2016 but lost the Republican primary.
With 98 percent of precincts reporting, Rush received 176,560 votes (73 percent), according to unofficial results. Tillman came in second with 49,976 votes, or 21 percent. Rudbeck, who describing himself as a “free-market liberal” more closely aligned with Democrats than Republicans, received 16,506 votes (7 percent).
In the Chicago portion of the district, Rush did even better, winning 92.7 percent of the votes, compared with 4.2 percent for Rudbeck and 3.1 percent for Tillman. In suburban Cook County, with 100 percent of precincts reporting, Rush won 56.8 percent (40,652 votes), compared with 33.5 percent (23,975 votes) for Tillman and 9.7 percent (6,946 votes) for Rudbeck.
Hurley won her bid for re-election to a fourth term, receiving 68 percent of the votes cast, according to unofficial results.
Republican challenger Herbert Hebein, a retired Chicago police officer new to the political arena, received the remaining 32 percent.
The 35th District stretches southwest from Chicago’s Beverly and Mount Greenwood neighborhoods to Orland Park, taking in all or part of Oak Lawn, Evergreen Park, Worth, Merrionette Park, Alsip, Palos Heights and Palos Park.
In the suburban section of the district, with all 50 precincts reporting, Hurley received 57 percent of the votes (12,893), compared with 43 percent (9,731) for Hebein, according to Cook County Clerk David Orr’s office.
Both candidates live in Mount Greenwood, but Hurley’s popularity was more evident in the Chicago section of the district. With 54 of 56 precincts reporting, she received 80.9 percent of the votes (15,806) there, compared with 19.2 percent for Hebein (3,744), according to the Chicago Board of Elections. Hurley, who was first elected in 2012, got her start as an aide to Ald. Ginger Rugai (19th), and the current Ald. Matthew O'Shea.
During the campaign, Hurley denied Hebein's claim that she was too closely tied to House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-22nd).
“I am my own person. I don’t do what Madigan says. But that is the Republican rhetoric, blaming everything on Madigan,” said Hurley, a full-time legislator.
She said that when she returns to Springfield, she plans to focus on reducing property taxes, which Hurley said is the main issue constituents raise with her on the campaign trail.
The 35th District race was one of the only contested races in the southwest suburban area, with state Sen. Bill Cunningham (D-18th), and state Reps. Kelly Burke (D-36th), Mary Flowers (D-31st) and Andre Thapedi (D-32nd) running unopposed.