Hours after Cook County Democrats moved swiftly and unanimously to re-elect their party chair, county Republicans completed a far more messy and protracted process Wednesday, ultimately choosing to place a Palatine councilman to lead the problem-fraught organization.
By weighted vote after more than an hour of debate, Republican committeeman from Chicago and the suburbs narrowly elected Aaron Del Maar, the 33-year-old Palatine Township committeeman who has pledged to infuse the party with energy and diversity, over 72-year-old Niles Township Committeeman Joe Hedrick.
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Del Maar had the backing of Sig Vaznelis, the Cook County Republican chair who announced last month he wouldn't seek another term due to the demands of his civil engineering business.
A political turf war between Republicans from the north end of Cook County and those from the south helped drive this race, as well as the earlier primary battle for Cook County Board of Review commissioner between Wheeling resident Dan Patlak and South suburban resident Sean Morrison, a race Patlak ultimately won.
While Cook County Commissioner Liz Gorman of Orland Park fiercely plugged Morrison, New Trier Township Committeeman Bill Cadigan and other North suburban Cook County GOP committeemen supported Patlak. Cadigan was removed from his post by Vaznelis, who is aligned with Gorman, and therefore stripped of his voting powers in the election for chair.
New Trier township, because of its heavy number of Republicans, is one of the most influential townships. Cadigan said Wednesday he believed Vaznelis saw him as a threat as a potential chair.
Had Cadigan been permitted to cast a vote, some believe, Hedrick likely would have won.
Del Mar had support from committeemen across the North and South suburbs -- though noticeably absent from that list is his neighbor to the east, Wheeling Township Committeeman Ruth O'Connell of Arlington Heights, who was defeated by Vaznelis in last September's election for chair.
"I think he hasn't brought unity to Palatine, and that bothers me," O'Connell said of Del Maar.
"How do you bring unity to the party (then)?"
Earlier in the day, Cook County Democrats unanimously re-elect Joe Berrios as their chairman at Chicago's Allegro Hotel.
The county assessor and party committeeman from Chicago's 31st Ward was praised by suburban and city committeeman alike for his effective leadership. The party had, according to insider totals, won 23 of 26 positions in its last election.
County board President Toni Preckwinkle, a committeeman for the city's 4th ward since 1992, also praised Berrios for his work to bring racial and gender diversity to the party.
Several Democratic committeemen who also serve in the state legislature and are in Springfield -- Sen. Don Harmon of Oak Park, House Speaker Michael Madigan of Chicago and Rep. Karen Yarbrough of Maywood, among them -- voted by proxy.
The biannual election, mandated by state law, also functioned to appoint several party members to top posts. Preckwinkle and state Rep. Lou Lang, a Skokie Democrat, were appointed to executive chair positions.
Concluding the meeting were several representatives from President Barack Obama's campaign, who stressed that Cook County -- the state's most populous county and a well-known Democratic stronghold -- was central to a re-election bid.