Suffredin takes on challengers in race for Cook County commissioner

Samantha Handler, Assistant City Editor

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With only two weeks left until the election for Cook County commissioner of the 13th District — which includes Evanston — all three candidates are gearing up for the last push of their campaigns.

The two candidates challenging Commissioner Larry Suffredin are preparing for their first-ever elections as contenders. Suffredin, DePaul sophomore Bushra Amiwala and software developer Daniel Foster will face off at the March 20 primary, and one will advance to the general election. The commissioner serves a four-year term on the board, which appropriates funds for county operations.

The incumbent

Daily file photo by Maytham Al-Zayer
Cook County Commissioner Larry Suffredin speaks at a town hall last year.

Suffredin was elected to the position in 2002, and previously served as an Evanston Democratic Committeeman from 1990 to 1994. The 70-year-old said he is running for reelection because he still “has the energy to do the job” and that there are still issues he wants to work on.

In a candidate statement posted on his website, Suffredin said he has written ordinances that created an independent governance board and expanded Cook County Health and Hospitals System services. He has also designated the county a Sanctuary County, increased the minimum wage and established a sexual harassment reporting and training program.

Suffredin told The Daily he wants to continue to make sure the county is responsive to constituents and communicate with the public about the decisions that the board is making. He said it is important to give people “confidence that we are properly running the government.”

He said his time as a lawyer has helped him throughout his tenure in the commissioner’s office.

“What has shaped (my time as commissioner) is not my experience in the office,” Suffredin said, “but my experience in life and as a lawyer, in terms of methodically approaching the government and making sure that I’m constantly challenging it to do better.”

The challengers

Source: Bushra Amiwala
Bushra Amiwala.

Amiwala, a college sophomore who is about 50 years younger than the incumbent, said she first thought about running when she had heard a rumor that Suffredin was retiring. She said at that moment she thought, “What do I have to lose?”

“The current commissioner is obviously not retiring, but that’s really what was said to me, what encouraged me to run,” Amiwala said. “I realized with (my) support system, me getting elected is practical and possible, and I think it’s time for a new voice.”

Amiwala said when she was younger, she found politics to be unappealing because she perceived politicians to be corrupt and dishonest. Later, she realized that the way to enact long-term change was through politics and government, she said.

Amiwala said she wants to bring more transparency to the commissioner’s office, making it easier for constituents to see where funds are being allocated and improving accessibility to services the county offers.

Amiwala said if elected, she also hopes to be a voice for the immigrant community, low-income families, women and young people.

“Fifteen of the 17 board members are men, ” she said. “There are only two women on the board of commissioners and … the youth perspective is lost as well.”

Source: Robin Subar
Daniel Foster.

After the election of President Donald Trump, Foster said he realized that many people are nervous about the future. Foster isn’t one of those people. The software developer said he is optimistic about the future and wants to share his vision with others.

“A lot of politicians sell this line that the future’s getting worse, that incomes are going down, life spans are getting shorter, health care is getting more expensive and less effective,” Foster said, “But I’m a computer scientist by training … and I know that none of that is actually true, that everything is getting better all the time.”

Foster said he will work “full-time” in the position: talking to constituents, coordinating with other levels of government and communicating with other politicians. He said he has thoroughly researched the position and drafted practical policy proposals on changing the property tax assessment system and improving the local environment.

One of the reasons Foster said he chose to run for commissioner was the connection to the sheriff’s office and county jails. He said he wants to tackle the issue of mass incarceration and the marginalization associated with it, particularly after watching his parents fight for his brother — who has Down syndrome — to be included in schools with his peers.

Foster said he now looks after and fights for rights with his brother, which influences his political views.

“Growing up around that fight (and) participating in that fight now really gave me a sense of how important integration is,” Foster said. “In my opinion, mass incarceration is the most blatant destructive and institutionalized form (of) segregation that we have facing our generation today.”

Twitter: @sn_handler