Your Guide to Cook County’s Down-Ballot Races

Here’s everything you need to know to cast an informed vote in Tuesday’s municipal elections.


The Maroon has Hyde Park and UChicago voters covered with information on Election 2022.

By Laura Gersony

Tomorrow, residents of Hyde Park and Woodlawn will vote on a dizzying 34 races and ballot items. Among them are nine municipal elections for Cook County government.

While lesser-known to the public, these positions hold a lot of power over the county’s operations, from tax collection to infrastructure planning. Likewise, they have rich—and sometimes recent—histories as key footholds for local corruption. Here’s everything you need to know to cast an informed vote in Cook County’s municipal elections. 

Precinct polling places will be open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Tuesday, November 8. You can find your polling place by entering your address at the Election Board’s website. You can register to vote at your polling place on Election Day by presenting two forms of ID, one of which must have a current home address. 

Cook County Board of Commissioners: President & 3rd District 

With a $9 billion budget, the Cook County Board of Commissioners manages all the county’s operations, from the Office of the County Auditor to the Zoning Appeals Board. It’s composed of 17 commissioners, each with a four-year term. The Cook County Board has made headlines in recent months for piloting a guaranteed income program and for its scramble to fill more than 4,000 vacant positions in the county government due to a nationwide shortage of healthcare workers. The Board is also responsible for crafting the annual county budget. This year’s version was released last month. 

The Board has been solidly Democrat-run for the party’s entire modern history. The question is whether the Republican minority will stay at a mere two members or shrink even further. 

The Board president’s race has become a flashpoint for partisan debates over the role of police and public safety in the city. Running for a fourth term is incumbent Toni Preckwinkle, longtime Chicago city councilmember and runner-up in the 2019 mayoral election. Up against Preckwinkle is former 2nd Ward Alderman Bob Fioretti, a Republican and practicing attorney whose campaign emphasizes a “tough-on-crime” platform that promises to bolster police presence in the county. After six unsuccessful bids challenging Preckwinkle as a Democrat, Fioretti is now running as a Republican. 

The 3rd District, which represents Hyde Park, Woodlawn, and Kenwood, is also up for grabs. Commissioner Bill Lowry, a Democrat who has represented the district since 2018, is running uncontested. 

Cook County Assessor 

The task of the Cook County Assessor is simple: to translate land into county revenue. This year’s race pits incumbent Democrat Fritz Kaegi, whose tenure marked an end to the office’s cottage industry of corruption, against Libertarian Nico Tsatsoulis and write-in candidate Clifton Graham Jr. 

Kaegi made a splash in 2018 by unseating Joseph Berrios, whose overvaluation of large commercial properties shifted the property tax burden onto homeowners. Kaegi’s 2021 assessment of property values in Cook County found a more than 50% increase in the value of commercial properties in Chicago—a finding which has shifted the tax burden off homeowners and renters.  

Kaegi goes up against Tsatsoulis, a graduate of UChicago’s Booth School of Business and self-described “irate citizen.” Tsatsoulis is running against tax assessment increases, seeking to limit the tax to one percent of property values, though these rates are set by the County Clerk, not the Assessor’s Office. Clifton Graham Jr., a resident of Country Club Hills, Illinois, is also running as a write-in candidate. 

Cook County Clerk 

County Clerk Karen Yarbrough, a one-term Democrat, is running for reelection against former County Commissioner Tony Peraica (R-16th) and Libertarian Joseph Schreiner 

The Clerk’s office manages elections across Cook County, and maintains Cook County files such as birth, death, and marriage certificates. Incumbent Karen Yarbrough is currently under fire for violating anti-patronage laws, unfairly favoring some workers and punishing others, during her first term. She faced similar allegations at her previous post, the county recorder of deeds. 

She faces former County Commissioner Tony Peraica, a Republican running on making the office more efficient, and Joseph Schreiner, a Libertarian whose platform rails against COVID-19 vaccine and mask mandates. If either candidate is successful, they would be the first non-Democrat to hold the office in more than a century. 

Cook County Sheriff 

As the top law enforcement officer in the county, the Sheriff oversees the County’s policing and prison systems. They manage the Cook County jail, coordinate policing throughout the county, and provide security at county and court facilities. 

The race saw a chaotic Democratic primary election, with a last-minute ballot change rendering tens of thousands of ballots invalid. Nevertheless, fourth-term incumbent Sheriff Tom Dart won the nomination in a landslide with 85 percent of the primary vote—a supermajority that would have held even if all the lost ballots had gone to his challenger. Dart’s office has expanded mental health care for incarcerated people and launched a co-responder model that deploys mental health clinicians along with police officers when responding to mental health episodes. 

Dart’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic has been a polarizing issue for the campaign, as his office faced a civil lawsuit for cramped conditions in the county’s prisons. However, the office’s sanitation and social distancing measures are credited with averting 30 deaths and 400 cases of COVID-19. His office has also faced FBI scrutiny for allegations of “ghost-payrolling,” though no criminal charges have resulted.  

Dart faces Republican Lupe Aguirre, a former lawyer and Chicago police officer. Aguirre is running on a staunchly pro-policing platform, criticizing Dart as a “social justice warrior” for the prison reforms his office has overseen. 

Cook County Treasurer  

The Treasurer’s race has incumbent Democrat Maria Pappas facing off against Republican Peter Kopsaftis and Libertarian Michael Murphy. 

During six terms in office, Pappas is widely regarded to have transformed the position by publishing regular “Pappas studies” that analyze inequities in Chicago’s property tax system: including analyses of redlining, the distribution of debt across the city, and a property tax loophole that has cost Chicago $280 million over the last seven years. 

Seeking to disrupt her seventh term in office are Republican Peter Kopsaftis and Libertarian Michael Murphy. 

Chicago Board of Review Commissioners 

The Board of Review Commissioner’s main job is to hear appeals about property taxes. In Cook County, board members are elected from three districts, each representing one-third of the county’s population. Wealthy interests have historically held an outsize influence in the office: today, appeals are disproportionately filed by the county’s wealthier north and northwest sides. 

All three members of the Board are up for re-election. Because redistricting last year cemented all three districts as solidly Democrat, the races are not expected to be competitive. 

Representing the South Side is District 3 incumbent Commissioner Larry Rogers Jr., who is running for re-election unchallenged this election cycle. Rogers is one of three commissioners who violated Cook County’s ethics codes in 2018 by accepting donations from the property tax appeals business, according to a Chicago Tribune investigation. 

Metropolitan Water Reclamation District Commissioner 

A $1.3 billion agency, the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District governs all things water-related in Cook County. This board of nine individuals is responsible for maintaining water and wastewater infrastructure, treating contaminated waterways, and preventing flooding and pollution. Controlling more than 9,000 acres of land, it’s the second-largest landowner in all of Cook County.  

All of the members are “at large,” meaning that they all represent the entire county rather than one specific region, and serve staggered six-year terms. The board is a policy-making entity, so it can establish policies for the county and perform financial oversight. 

This year, there are four seats up for grabs. One of them is a special election to fill the absence of Debra Shore, who was tapped to serve as Region 5 administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency. Two people are running to fill this unexpired term: Green Party candidate Toneal M. Jackson, an environmental activist and author, and Democratic Party candidate Daniel Pogorzelski, a former union organizer and former director of Avondale, Illinois’s chamber of commerce. 

The other three seats will serve six-year terms per usual. Five people are running to fill these seats: Republican Cary Capparelli, a businessman who has run for the position four times before, twice as a Democrat and twice as a Republican, whose platform emphasizes “cost-effectiveness”; Incumbent Democrat Mariyana Spyropoulos, who has served on the board since 2010 and runs for re-election on “fiscal responsibility, transparency and an environmentally progressive policy”; Green Party candidate Mark Buettner, a wastewater treatment operator who names urban flooding as a key issue of his campaign; Democrat Yumeka Brown, an environmental lawyer and small business owner; and Democrat Patricia Theresa Flynn, 12-year Village Trustee in the suburb of Crestwood, Illinois. 

For information about judicial races, please see the local nonprofit Injustice Watch’s voter guides.