Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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Cook County primaries saw close races, low turnout

Illustration by Ziye Wang
Democrat Eileen O’Neill Burke narrowly defeated opponent Clayton Harris III in the Cook County State’s Attorney race.

The Cook County primaries saw close races and turnout as low as 17.95%. Now that all the votes have been counted, here’s a rundown of the results of the key races and how Evanston residents voted. 

Cook County State’s Attorney race

Former Illinois Appellate Court Judge Eileen O’Neill Burke beat former prosecutor Clayton Harris III in a narrow finish to the Cook County State’s Attorney Democratic nomination.

O’Neill Burke maintained a thin lead throughout the 10-day-long count, eventually winning by 1,556 votes.

A bone of contention between O’Neill Burke and Harris was their stance on retail theft. 

Incumbent Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx’s office raised the felony threshold for retail theft to $1,000.

During her campaign, O’Neill Burke said she would decrease this number to $300. Harris, who had the backing of the Cook County Democratic Party, said he would keep it at $1,000.

Harris argued during his campaign that O’Neill Burke would take Cook County back to when it was the “nation’s wrongful convictions capital.” He also said that O’Neill Burke’s message is one that resonates with big donors and not with Cook County voters. Harris lagged O’Neill Burke in campaign funds.

A recent analysis by WBEZ Chicago showed that O’Neill Burke’s campaign donors have predominantly been white men, several with ties to the Republican Party. On the other hand, Harris received donations primarily from people of color.

Harris also spoke at the Democratic Party of Evanston’s “get-out-the-vote” rally in late February, after receiving their endorsement.

“Safety and justice are not an ‘either-or’ proposition,” he said at the event. “Safety and justice are an ‘and’ proposition. We do not have to sacrifice one for the other.” 

Harris won in every ward of Evanston.

Mayor Daniel Biss, who is also the committeeperson of the DPOE, said he was proud the organization’s endorsed candidate won a strong majority in Evanston. 

Biss added that the Democratic Party of Evanston will now “enthusiastically” support Eileen O’Neill Burke’s general election candidacy against Republican nominee Bob Fioretti.  

Cook County Circuit Court Clerk race

Other key races included the Democratic primary for Cook County Circuit Court Clerk. 

Mariyana Spyropoulos, metropolitan water reclamation district commissioner, defeated incumbent Iris Martinez, winning 65% of the votes.

Spyropoulos has advocated for reforming the Clerk’s office and called its previous actions, such as the accidental release of criminal records of 5,000 juveniles online in January, “mismanagement” and “dysfunction” at DPOE’s rally in February.

Spyropoulos, backed by the county’s Democratic Party, loaned her own campaign $875,000, 18 times the funds Martinez had in December, according to WBEZ Chicago.

Illinois Supreme Court race

In the only contested Illinois Supreme Court race, the Democratic Party endorsed incumbent Justice Joy Cunningham, who ran against 1st District Appellate Judge Jesse Reyes.

The race stirred up questions about adequate representation in the court. 

Reyes said the court should be reflective of the various communities in the state, especially since the Latine community now makes up over a quarter of Cook County’s population. 

Cunningham argued that the election should be focused more on experience rather than race.  She won about 75% of the vote.

Voter turnout in Evanston

Voter turnout in suburban Cook County remained low in the primaries, with only 17.95% of the registered voters casting ballots.

“We have to be realistic,” Biss said. “We should not expect there to be the same level of broad excitement about deciding who’s going to be the Clerk of Circuit Court than deciding who’s going to be president.”

He added that he feels proud of the Evanston community for having more turnout than most suburban townships. 

Former Co-President of Northwestern College Democrats and Medill senior Anna Lansford said that her friends from Cook County and Chicago were very “on top” of researching candidates and going out to vote. 

Lansford said the State’s Attorney race was especially important for Cook County due to its history of institutional racism in its criminal justice system. She said the narrow race emphasized the importance of voting. 

“That (Cook County State’s Attorney race) just really underscores the importance of going out to vote even in local elections … and just how much one individual voice can really change the outcome of elections,” she said. 

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Related Stories:

Eileen O’Neill Burke wins State’s Attorney race 

Key races to watch in March 19 primaries 

DPOE holds rally ahead of March primaries

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