Assessor election suggests white reformers ought not go it alone

November 3, 2010

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Chip Mitchell/WBEZ
Forrest Claypool attends a Salem Baptist Church service in October. His efforts to win over black voters bore little fruit.

The results of a fiercely contested Cook County election are exposing a gulf between white liberals and minority voters.

Forrest Claypool’s anti-machine rhetoric has proven popular over the years with white progressives. But he needed broader support to beat Democrat Joe Berrios in Tuesday’s Cook County assessor election.

In particular, Claypool had to do better in heavily minority neighborhoods than when he tried to unseat Cook County Board President John Stroger in 2006.

He didn’t do better.

Jamiko Rose, executive director of the Organization of the Northeast, said the results show how far the progressive movement has to go. “We need to identify the issues that different ethnic communities care about and build relationships and work on those issues,” she said.

Many community organizers say a good-government agenda isn’t enough. They say reformers also need to focus on issues like jobs, schools and public safety.