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Elections Wed Nov 03 2010

Berrios Wins; Most Everyone Loses

It may not have been the most high-profile race of the evening, but in many ways, the contest for Cook County Assessor between Democrat Joe Berrios and Independent Forrest Claypool may have been the most symbolic. In a victory for Machine-style patronage, Berrios cruised to a win with 48% of the vote to Claypool's nearly 32%.

Claypool HQ.JPG
Claypool Campaign HQ on Election Night

The largely white, relatively sparse, yet immensely supportive crowd at Claypool's election headquarters remained fairly subdued all evening, with expectations tempered by both the moneyed interests and the large Hispanic support Berrios was poised to receive throughout the city and county. Now, Berrios, the already clout-heavy chairman of the Cook County Democratic Party, gets to openly operate as Assessor what have been his overtly tax-friendly tactics towards Loop high-rises while he served as a member of the Board of Review. If history proves to repeat itself, coupled with the political power that comes with the Assessor's office, Berrios will be looking towards the neighborhoods to make up the difference in collection.

Which leads to the inevitable question of how anyone in the neighborhoods could throw their vote behind such a candidate. Unfortunately, one of the side effects of identity politics is that it can also serve to eliminate true discussion of any possible consequences of long-term destructiveness of certain candidate's policies. The long-time congressman and 2nd Ward Alderman William Dawson is a shining example of such in Chicago's past. One of the great ironies of the long-arc of democracy as well is that the well-intentioned inclusiveness of identity politics - at least initially a way to excite and engage masses - can often lead to alienating and discouraging the most strident and most needed believers behind an honest candidate's cause. As one of Claypool's volunteers said, right before his concession, "there's something adrenalizing about getting involved in a campaign like this, and yet, it's demoralizing" knowing the outcome.

Claypool's concession speech highlighted the success of the campaign in "planting seeds" for good government. With Toni Preckwinkle's victory in the Cook County Board President race, there's room to believe that these good government seeds may slowly be taking root. Till then, here's hoping Cook County is able to cure its case of What's the Matter with Kansas-itis and we're not all taxed out of our underwater homes in the interim.

Claypool Fam.JPG
Forrest Claypool delivering his concession speech for Cook County Assessor

r / November 3, 2010 11:06 AM

This is a sad day for Cook County. I was so convinced that voters would throw BOTH Joe and Toni Berrios out on their sorry asses. Disappointing to see qualified candidates like Karpen and Claypool lose.

Sunshine / November 3, 2010 3:34 PM

Let's not lump the Claypool loss with the Karpen loss. The two stories teach very different lessons. I campaigned yesterday in much of the 35th ward and saw a well-oiled machine at work. As much as I hate machine-politics, I found a way to admire it. Alderman Colon had his block and precinct captains at every polling place, taking note of who from their area voted. One block captain left his post handing out palm cards to knock on doors of neighbors he knew were home, but had not yet voted. He explained that Colon helped raise funds for a successful block party in the summer, and never asked for anything in return. But the captain knew, when it was time to vote, he would have to get-out-the-vote as a sign of respect.

Joe Berrios may be a machine fat-cat, but behind every vote is a person who was touched by his organization, or a partner organization.

Claypool's campaign was largely centered around media, and as an employee of AKPD (Axelrod and Plouffe), he is an expert. He was able to catch the minds and hearts of Lakefront Liberals and right-leaning Goo-Goos with deep pockets. Although he had slick ads and well-crafted talking points, he didn't have an organization to turn people out for the vote. And frankly, he had a cadre of people who LOVED him and what they think he stood for, and even more people who didn't give a shit.

Toni, unlike her father, inherited her access to the machine. She was out the night before the election, at the Blue Line stop in Logan Square (yes that one) passing out literature. It seemed as though no one knew who she was. They knew the name Berrios, but didn't know Toni personally.

Unlike Claypool, her opponent, Green Jeremy Karpen has little monetary backing but an organization he has been growing for the past 3 years. People in the community know Jeremy, to a certain extent. He had 21% of the vote in 2008 and grew it to 35% in 2010. Unlike many Greens who run on platitudes and spite, Jeremy is building something that can one day affect some real change.

In two years, Claypool will be onto his next media stunt, Joe will continue cutting deals for Madigan's personal interest, and Jeremy Karpen will be the first Green under the dome.

Mike / November 4, 2010 9:41 PM

Maybe Joe will have his inevitable "grabber" within the next couple years. Few of the people he's supposed to actually work for would cry.

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