Illinois Senate President Don Harmon (D-39th), who also serves as the Oak Park Township committeeperson, announced the process for filling Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson’s seat on the Cook County Board.
Prior to his election as Chicago mayor in April, Johnson was the commissioner for Cook County’s 1st District, which includes Oak Park, Forest Park, part of Chicago’s West Side and portions of Proviso Township.
Under the Cook County Code of Ordinances, vacancies on the county board are filled by the members of the election committee of the political party of the person who last held that seat.
The election committees are made up of committeepersons who represent Chicago wards and suburban townships within the district, and their share of the vote is apportioned according to how many voters in their district voted for Johnson in the Nov. 8, 2022 election for county board.
This means that Harmon and County Clerk Karen Yarbrough, the Proviso Township committeeperson, collectively hold 58.72% of the vote. If they vote together, they will determine who is chosen by themselves.
Because Oak Park Township had the highest portion of the vote, Harmon serves as the selection committee chair. In a statement to the media, he indicated applications for the position can be submitted by email to firstname.lastname@example.org. The dates for in-person interviews and a meeting where the replacement will be selected have not been set yet.
Johnson resigned from his seat effective May 13, two days before he was sworn in as the Chicago mayor. In a statement to the media, he stated that it has been a “true honor” to serve on a county board.
“As excited as I am about my future as mayor of Chicago, I am also sobered and humbled to be leaving my constituents and colleagues on the Board, because together, we have done so much important work to transform Cook County government,” he stated. “As I look back on these last four years, I am particularly proud that, under President Toni Preckwinkle’s steady leadership, we centered equity and justice in all of our work. Whether it was the Justice for Black Lives resolution, which helped frame our budget deliberations, or the Just Housing Ordinance, which protects individuals with arrest records from housing discrimination, we focused our energy on centering and uplifting our most vulnerable, most marginalized communities. Compassion, competency and collaboration propelled everything we accomplished.”
Yarbrough previously told Growing Community Media that, until Johnson resigned, the selection committee couldn’t start its work. She also indicated that the work likely won’t start until after the Illinois General Assembly adjourns on May 19.
Normally, the city commiteepersons’ shares of the vote would be allocated based on ward boundaries that existed at the time of the most recent election.
But the current committeepersons were elected in the March 2020 Democratic primary, before ward boundaries were redrawn in 2022. Selection committee spokesperson Tom Bowen said that, for the purpose of allocating the vote share, they took the November 2022 precinct-level data and applied it to the previous maps.
This shifted the makeup of the selection committee – 24th Ward Committeeperson Michael Scott and 36th Ward Committeeperson Ald. Gilbert Villegas, whose wards were drawn into the 1st District in 2022, won’t be voting, but 2nd Ward Committeeperson Tim Egan, whose ward was drawn out of the 1st District in 2022, will.
While it doesn’t alter the overall vote difference between the city and suburbs, it does mean that the 29th Ward committeeperson, Ald. Chris Taliaferro, who would’ve had the biggest share of city votes under the 2022 map (13.31%) now has the third-biggest share (6.68%). Ald. Emma Mitts, 37th Ward committeeperson, now has the highest percentage (11.59%) in the city.
The seat is open to registered voters who have lived in the 1st District for at least a year. Several West Side community activists and faith leaders have publicly expressed interest.
That includes Rev. Ira J. Acree, co-chair of the Leaders Network, a faith-based West Side social justice group and pastor of Greater St. John Bible Church; former 29th Ward alderperson candidate and Cook County Board president candidate Zerlina Smith-Members; Marshall Hatch Jr., head of West Garfield Park’s MAAFA Redemption Project; and Austin activist Claiborne Wade.
Harmon stated he welcomes more applications.
“Anyone interested in applying to our committee for the appointment should submit a resume and a short cover letter signifying their interest and qualifications,” he said.