In a phone interview hours after the polls closed, Chris Harris, trailing in last place the entire evening, all but conceded the race. Harris, a Forest Park resident, made his political debut in the Feb. 2 primary with a bid for the 1st District seat on the Cook County Board of Commissioners.
It was a four-way contest on the Democratic ticket and Harris acknowledged he was outspent by the other campaigns by an enormous margin. Though the votes didn’t go his way, Harris was buoyed by the fact that Ade Onayemi, an Oak Park challenger to incumbent Earlean Collins, did well in the suburbs. Because there were similarities in his and Onayemi’s message, said Harris, the suburban polling results suggest voters may have responded to his message had he amassed the financial support of his competitors.
“Sharing very similar platforms with Ade, and on the campaign trail sharing many conversations … I think this is a definite mandate on the 1st District,” Harris said of the suburban polling results.
As for preliminary polling results in Forest Park, Harris did find those numbers pleasing, saying he heard plenty of “great feedback” encouraging him to stay involved in politics.
“I can’t say I’m completely discouraged,” Harris said.
Collins trounced her competition throughout the evening as returns started trickling in shortly after polls closed at 7 p.m. With 256 out of 299 precincts reporting as of 9:58 p.m., Collins led the field with more than 14,000 votes. Onayemi was second with around 9,000 votes. Derrick Smith and Harris rounded out the field with roughly 4,500 and 2,000, respectively.
“This is not the last they’ll hear from me,” vowed Onayemi on election night.
When all was said and done, Onayemi, a first-time candidate running outside of Oak Park, was handily defeated by the incumbent. Collins won with more than 16,000 votes to Onayemi’s tally of just more than 10,000. In Chicago alone, Onayemi was swamped, garnering fewer than 2,900 votes compared with Collins’ tally of more than 11,000. In suburban Cook County, Onayemi beat the commissioner with nearly 7,700 total votes. Collins received slightly fewer than 5,500 votes.
“I’m very disappointed, but we gave it a good shot. We got our message out, I believe,” he said.
The Oak Park resident and Nigerian native added that the county and state still need better leadership.
“There has been very poor leadership in the last few years and people need to heed the warnings, because it can be very difficult to reverse the failures of the system,” Onayemi said. “Until we get rid of those elected officials associated with that system, it’s not going to change.”
But despite a swarm of opposition from some constituents concerning her position on the county sales tax hike and a perceived lack of visibility in the 1st District, Collins pulled out a decisive victory.
Attempts to reach Collins by phone on election night were unsuccessful.