Mail-in ballots turn the table in Northfield Township

When we shut down our computers in the early morning of April 7, the race for Northfield Township supervisor was too close to call.

It remains so. Only with a change in the lead.

On April 6, with all 62 precincts reporting, five-time incumbent Jill Brickman, a Republican, had held a 56-vote lead over Democratic challenger Shiva Mohsenzadeh.

By early afternoon on April 13, due to mail-in and provisional votes being added, Mohsenzadeh had pulled ahead by 139 votes. She had 6,979 votes, or 50.5% of the total. Brickman had 6,840 votes, 49.5%.

"The margin's only going to grow," Mohsenzadeh said.

Even on election night she had seen this coming. Since then her optimism has been rewarded.

"There's still some votes outstanding. We know they were requested by Democrats, and the mail-in ballots generally tend to be linked to Democrats, so that margin's only going to grow," said Mohsenzadeh, a current Northfield Township trustee.

"I'm pretty confident, and I'm already ahead. As I said last week, I would bet that I most likely have won the election."

Last Friday, Frank Herrera, director of communications for the Cook County Clerk's Office, in an email stated 4,993 Northfield Township mail ballots had been requested by the April 1 deadline. By early afternoon on April 9, Herrera said 3,811 had been returned.

Ballots postmarked by April 6 that arrive at election offices by April 20 will be counted, as will any provisional ballots. There is a provision for candidates within 5% of the votes cast for the winner to file a petition for a discovery recount, with a deadline of five days after results have been proclaimed. Canvassing continues through April 27.

Brickman, Northfield supervisor since May 2001, was not pleased, but also not shocked by the shift in the lead.

"I've lived in Cook County my entire life. It's hard to surprise me with election results," said the Glenview resident.

"I respect the voters."

Mohsenzadeh saw several factors at play.

"I knew that my particular race would be more of an uphill battle, only because my opponent has been around for a very long time and has the name recognition. But I was also hoping that would work for me and voters would like a change," she said.

"I think it's part of a national trend. I'm by no means an expert on this, but just in my years in government, the previous national administration, I think, did help awaken more women in the suburbs. They are trending more Democratic. They're saying that their values align with more Democratic values. And Glenview is leaning slightly, slightly more Democratic."

Representing most of Northbrook, Glenview and part of Northfield, Northfield Township maintains the roads and bridges in unincorporated areas, serves as a liaison to Cook County to assist residents with property tax questions, offers assistance to residents through general and emergency assistance and a food pantry, registers voters and provides passport services, according to its website.

When she weighs trends aligned with party against providing services, Brickman said it "saddens" her.

"Not because it's Republicans, but because the work that we do is so nonpartisan," she said. "I'm not saying that in a partisan way. I'd hate to see partisanship affect work that is nonpartisan."

Should Mohsenzadeh's lead hold or build, Brickman could take pride in services such as the Northfield Township Food Pantry, one of the success stories of the COVID-19 pandemic.

She said when she came into office the pantry served around 200 households, and it's now close to 1,000. It served at least 800 households even before the pandemic, she said, due to need after the 2008 recession.

"It isn't a new thing for us to be doing this outreach and to be working with segments of our community who, to some people, are invisible. We didn't let that get in our way," Brickman said.

"Right now I'll keep doing the best job I can do, and I owe it to our residents to continue to serve at the best level I can. And I take that responsibility seriously."

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