Berrios wins Cook assessor race

Updated 11/2/2010 11:26 PM

Democrat Joseph Berrios won the Cook County assessor's seat Tuesday over Forrest Claypool, a Democrat running as an independent, who said a shortage of indepedent suburban voters sealed his fate.

Claypool mounted a credible challenge, winning 32 percent of the vote with 95 percent of precincts reporting, but he could not budge the 48 percent that supported Berrios.

Republican Sharon Strobeck-Eckersall came in third with 18 percent of the vote. Vote totals remain unofficial.

"We got squeezed between the straight Democratic voters in the city and the straight Republican voters in the suburbs," Claypool said after conceding defeat. "There just wasn't enough left to overcome the straight party voters. There just wasn't enough in the suburbs, and we needed the suburbs."

Berrios moves to the assessor's office after 22 years at the Cook County Board of Review.

"This shows that the Democratic Party is still strong in Cook County and we will keep up the fight for the working taxpayer," Berrios said.

Berrios said the first thing he'll do after he's sworn in will be to open the assessor's office on Saturdays. "That's so the taxpayer doesn't have to take off work to correct an error that government caused," Berrios said.

Berrios, chairman of the Cook County Democratic Party, was dogged by accusations of conflicts of interest and accepted campaign contributions from property-tax lawyers arguing assessment appeals before the Board of Review. Berrios maintained the conflicts never resulted in any biased judgments.

Claypool twice served as Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley's chief of staff, and also headed the Chicago Park District in the 1990s. He earlier served as deputy for Pat Quinn and was allied with political consultant David Axelrod, now in the Obama White House.

Claypool was elected to the County Board in 2002 and ran for president in 2006, but lost in the Democratic Primary to President John Stroger, even though the incumbent suffered a debilitating stroke right before the election. Even so, Claypool strengthened his reputation as a progressive reformer allied with Commissioner Mike Quigley, now a Chicago U.S. representative.