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Elections Wed Nov 03 2010
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 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.
Forrest Claypool delivering his concession speech for Cook County Assessor