Cook County Democrats won't endorse Duckworth or Zopp in U.S. Senate race

Three suburban candidates for top offices did not win the endorsement of Cook County Democrats over their Chicago challengers.

The county Democratic organization will not endorse a candidate in the U.S. Senate primary race between U.S. Rep. Tammy Duckworth of Hoffman Estates and Chicago Urban League President and CEO Andrea Zopp.

The party organization also opted against endorsing a candidate for Cook County state's attorney, where current officeholder Anita Alvarez of River Forest is being challenged by attorney Kim Foxx of Chicago, a one-time chief of staff to Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle.

The group unanimously endorsed Chicago City Clerk Susana Mendoza over State Sen. Daniel Biss of Evanston for state comptroller.

State Sen. Don Harmon, an Oak Park committeeman who leads suburban members within the party organization, said suburban candidates did "phenomenally well" in winning endorsements for judges to the appellate and circuit court and for the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District.

"It's our job every year to try to build a slate of candidates that looks like all of Cook County. That requires balancing geography, gender and race," he said. "It's an imperfect science but we have a good slate."

Duckworth and Zopp will compete in the March 15 primary for the chance to take on U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk of Highland Park in November 2016. While Duckworth and Zopp are seen as the leading candidates, several others, including state Sen. Napoleon Harris of Harvey and Cook County Commissioner Richard Boykin of Oak Park, are making bids, which county party Chairman Joe Berrios said would have made it difficult for any candidate to obtain the necessary majority of votes required for endorsement.

"I've endorsed Duckworth, but I sense it would be better for the party to leave this alone and let committeemen have the opportunity to individually endorse various candidates," said state Rep. Lou Lang, a party committeeman from Skokie.

Duckworth's campaign manager, Kaitlin Fahey, called the move an "expected result" given the crowded primary and surplus of candidates from Chicago.

"We look forward to continuing to work to earn the votes of people all across Illinois," Fahey said in an emailed statement.

Zopp, in a statement on Twitter, thanked the county organization "for leaving (the) Senate race decision up to voters."

The winner in the Democratic primary for comptroller is expected to challenge incumbent Leslie Munger of Lincolnshire, who was appointed to the post after Republican Judy Barr Topinka died unexpectedly late last year.

Biss, who officially announced his bid last month, said he will continue to focus on gathering votes from across the state.

"I respect the process and the participants but getting the endorsement was not the goal," Biss said.

The endorsement process takes place through weighted vote by the county's 80 committeemen. Thirty of those committeemen hail from the suburbs.

The party also endorsed Hillary Clinton in the race for president.

Andrea Zopp
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