Republican Sean Morrison wins reelection to the Cook County Board

Morrison was the only incumbent Republican on the 17-member board who ran for reelection, as Democrats sought to dominate the board. The race was too close to call for another Republican candidate.

Cook County Commissioner Sean Morrison
Cook County Commissioner Sean Morrison on Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2022. Morrison, a Republican, held a narrow lead to retain his seat on the Democratic-heavy board. Manuel Martinez / WBEZ
Cook County Commissioner Sean Morrison
Cook County Commissioner Sean Morrison on Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2022. Morrison, a Republican, held a narrow lead to retain his seat on the Democratic-heavy board. Manuel Martinez / WBEZ

Republican Sean Morrison wins reelection to the Cook County Board

Morrison was the only incumbent Republican on the 17-member board who ran for reelection, as Democrats sought to dominate the board. The race was too close to call for another Republican candidate.

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Sean Morrison, the lone Republican incumbent Cook County Board commissioner running for reelection, will keep his seat after his Democratic opponent, Dan Calandriello, conceded Wednesday.

Illinois General Election graphic

Morrison’s victory ensures there will be at least one Republican on the 17-member Cook County Board of Commissioners.

“I’m proud of the race that we ran,” Morrison told a WBEZ reporter Tuesday evening as the once packed crowd inside a banquet hall in southwest suburban Orland Park thinned out.

Morrison, who also doubles as head of the Cook County GOP, shared the party with Republican 6th Congressional candidate Keith Pekau, who had hoped but failed to unseat Democratic Congressman Sean Casten.

Despite an apparent victory, Morrison said he was saddened for the county, as it appeared that Democrats would continue to dominate the county board.

“I don’t believe that either party should ever have complete control,” Morrison said. “There has to be checks and balances in government.”

The entire county board plus its president, Toni Preckwinkle, was on the ballot, though several commissioners either did not run again or couldn’t because they lost in the June primary.

Preckwinkle handily won her own reelection, and told WBEZ’s Reset on Wednesday her win was a reflection of the Democratic party’s focus on issues Cook County residents care about. That included, she said, the pilot basic income program she championed and mental health initiatives.

She also defended her calls for criminal justice reform after Democrats won campaigns in which Republicans frequently tried to use policy changes, such as the end of cash bail in Illinois, which is scheduled to be phased out next year.

“I think we’re committed to a criminal justice system that is both more fair and more just and doesn’t penalize people for poverty, or reward people for affluence,” Preckwinkle said.

Democrats have long dominated the Cook County Board. Heading into the election, there were only two Republican commissioners to 15 Democrats. Morrison was the only incumbent Republican on the ballot. The other Republican commissioner, Peter Silvestri, did not run for reelection.

The Republican seeking to replace Silvestri, Matt Podgorski, continues to be neck-and-neck in the 9th District with Democrat Maggie Trevor.

When asked by a Chicago Sun-Times reporter whether the County Board’s lack of Republican voices limits dissent, Preckwinkle countered that it’s Republicans who are limiting opposing views.

“I definitely believe in dissent. But…we’re at a moment in history in which the Republican Party has committed itself to election denial, committed itself to denying women comprehensive health care, committed itself to a very definite, narrow definition of who is an American,” Preckwinkle said. “I mean, if you listen to some of the Republicans, you would think that anyone who is not a native born white Christian is not an American. I mean, what kind of nonsense is that?

“The Democratic Party has always, at least in my lifetime, stood for inclusion… That inclusion is religion, it’s race, it’s gender identity. It’s…women’s ability to control their own bodies,” Preckwinkle said. “And I wish there were more people on the Republican side who shared what I believe are reasonable positions on those subjects. And there aren’t.”

Morrison, who also doubles as head of the Cook County GOP, declared victory Wednesday after Calandriello’s concession, issuing a statement thanking voters who showed they “want an independent voice serving them.”

He vowed to “continue to stand on my pragmatic principles of limited government, lower taxes, and finding responsible, common-sense solutions to our county’s problems. I will also remain committed to challenging the ‘soft on crime’ policies that have endangered communities and families across Cook County.”

“Finally, regarding the statement made by Cook County Board President, Toni Preckwinkle — the residents of Cook County’s 17th District would disagree, as they have now elected me for a second consecutive time to the county board,” Morrison said. “It is extreme and unwarranted to castigate hundreds of thousands of working families across Cook County in the manner that she did. Rather than providing her misguided characterization of residents, she ought to be focused on the real issues facing Cook County, like crime and property taxes.”

The county board oversees one of the largest counties in the U.S. With a roughly $8 billion budget, the county operates a jail, circuit court system and vast public health system that is a destination for people who are low-income or don’t have health insurance.

Preckwinkle won her fourth four-year term, and she was buoyed by a remap that changed commissioners’ district boundaries in an effort to strengthen her Democratic foothold, while the suburbs have shifted more blue.

Preckwinkle, who also is head of the Cook County Democratic Party, had sought to defeat Morrison, flip Silvestri’s seat blue and protect two sitting Democratic commissioners who ran for reelection.

Commissioners begin their new terms on Dec. 5.