A lot of eyes will be on these state and county races Tuesday

  • Early voting and voting by mail have proved to be exceptionally popular options this year because of the COVID-19 crisis. Lines of masked voters like these have been long.

    Early voting and voting by mail have proved to be exceptionally popular options this year because of the COVID-19 crisis. Lines of masked voters like these have been long. John Starks | Staff Photographer

  • Lines to vote early have been long at some suburban polling places, such as this one in Wheaton.

    Lines to vote early have been long at some suburban polling places, such as this one in Wheaton. Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 11/2/2020 10:21 AM

With millions of people around the country -- and around the world -- focused on who will win the presidency, it's easy to forget there are other important seats up for election.

In the suburbs, some of the most interesting and potentially closest contests have been for seats in the General Assembly. A lot of eyes are on the contest for Cook County state's attorney, too.

 

And with early and mail-in voting setting participation records, many campaign watchers suspect some winners won't be known until all late-arriving and provisional ballots are counted in two weeks.

Here are some races to watch as results come in Tuesday -- and in the days that follow.

Cook state's attorney

The campaign for Cook County state's attorney has been a contentious one.

Republican challenger Patrick O'Brien of Chicago described incumbent Kim Foxx as a "cheerleader for criminals." He criticized what he called Foxx's inexperience and lack of judgment, for "failing to prosecute whole categories of crimes" and for behaving more like a social worker than a prosecutor.

Foxx, of Flossmoor, accused O'Brien of "name-calling and fearmongering."

Foxx claimed violent crime convictions increased during her tenure. O'Brien slammed Foxx's handling of looters after Chicago protests against racial injustice this year.

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O'Brien also criticized Foxx for dismissing more cases than her predecessors and for giving what he called special treatment to a celebrity defendant in a case that drew international attention.

In January 2019, actor Jussie Smollett claimed he was the victim of a racist and homophobic attack in Chicago. Police disputed his claim and he was charged with filing a false report. By that March, prosecutors dropped the charges with no explanation.

Special prosecutor Dan Webb's subsequent investigation resulted in new charges against Smollett.

Webb later found no evidence to support criminal charges against Foxx or her deputies. However, his August report charged the office with abusing discretion, operational failures and making false or misleading statements in prosecuting Smollett's original case.

42nd state House

Snippets from a recorded phone call in which Republican state Rep. Amy Grant can be heard referencing the race and sexual orientation of her Democratic challenger, Ken Mejia-Beal, shone a spotlight on the 42nd District race in the heart of DuPage County.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Grant, a Wheaton resident who is seeking a second term, apologized for what she said was "a very clumsy and insensitive statement that does not reflect how I feel." The disparaging comments, taken from a conversation with an unknown caller, were released in September by Democratic state lawmakers.

Mejia-Beal, a gay, Black man from Lisle, refused to accept her apology, saying the recordings were a "grievous insult to every member of our community." But he told the Daily Herald he does not want the controversy to overshadow his platform of communicating openly with constituents and addressing issues related to climate change, social justice and health care.

Grant has advocated for term limits and ethics reform, as well as tackling the state's ongoing financial woes.

48th state House

The 48th District race is a rematch between Democratic incumbent Terra Costa Howard and Republican Peter Breen, whom Costa Howard ousted in 2018.

Breen, of Lombard, has claimed his successor has not fulfilled her promises to DuPage County residents. Costa Howard, of Glen Ellyn, said she spent her first term championing property tax fairness, advocating to end gerrymandering and working to pass legislation that directly impacts her constituents.

Accusations of lies, scare tactics and dirty politics have been prominent.

The controversies surrounding Speaker Michael Madigan have been an issue here, too.

After Costa Howard voted to retain Madigan as speaker, Breen accused her of sticking with the "Madigan machine." Costa Howard said she backed her party in her initial vote for Madigan as speaker, but has since called for his resignation amid the ComEd bribery scandal.

51st state House

Incumbent Democrat Mary Edly-Allen faces Republican Chris Bos for the 51st District seat, which serves much of central Lake County and a small portion of Cook County.

Edly-Allen defeated Republican incumbent Helene Miller Walsh two years ago to win the historically GOP-held post as part of the blue wave that swept through the suburbs and the nation. Bos is a Lake Zurich resident, a minister and an Ela Township trustee.

Among other issues, their stances on the proposed graduated income tax amendment set Edly-Allen and Bos apart.

Edly-Allen supports the plan. She said it should be coupled with a reduction in spending to protect middle class taxpayers from future tax hikes.

Bos said a graduated tax would harm local businesses and deter entrepreneurship. He also said there'd be no guarantees against future tax increases on middle- and lower-income residents.

To help solve the state's pension problem, Bos said, the legislature should amend the state Constitution to allow comprehensive reform. He also believes lawmakers shouldn't take pensions for their service.

Edly-Allen said the pension problem must be tackled in a bipartisan manner with input from all stakeholders. She favors keeping pension promises to retirees.

54th state House

The hotly contested 54th District race is a rematch of the 2018 contest, in which Republican incumbent Tom Morrison defeated Democratic challenger Maggie Trevor by a mere 37 votes.

Morrison -- a fiscal and social conservative from Palatine -- again is trying to keep the seat he's held since 2011. But this time, Trevor and the Democrats believe they have a good chance of notching a win.

Trevor, a market research consultant from Rolling Meadows, has presented the toughest challenge yet for Morrison, who has had a Democratic opponent every two years except in 2016.

The candidates disagree on major issues, including Gov. J.B. Pritzker's handling of the COVID-19 crisis and the graduated income tax proposal.

The district occupies a large, square-ish chunk of the Northwest suburbs in Cook County.

31st state Senate

Incumbent Democrat Melinda Bush of Grayslake faces a challenge from Republican Christopher Kasperski of Lindenhurst for the 31st District seat, which serves the northern half of Lake County.

Bush is seeking a third term, having first been elected to the chamber in 2012. She previously served on the Lake County Board. Kasperski is a retired Army combat engineer who's worked as a political consultant. This is his first campaign for public office.

The candidates have strikingly different opinions about Pritzker's response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Bush praised the work Pritzker has done, giving him "a top grade." Kasperski was critical of Pritzker's response, giving him a "D" for his effort. He also blasted lawmakers for delegating authority to Pritzker during the early days of the crisis.

Bush and Kasperski disagree on whether systemic racism exists. Bush acknowledged it, while Kasperski denied it.

"Let me state unequivocally that Black lives matter," Bush said. "As a legislator who is also a white woman, I have a responsibility to be an ally to my colleagues who live with systemic racism every day -- and that allyship includes doing less talking and more listening to what they know must be done."

Kasperski said he doesn't believe the justice system is racist, calling that allegation a "narrative."

"I think that the real world can be a dangerous and scary place for everyone, especially with respect to the tension between police and the people subject to their jurisdiction, and tragic outcomes sometimes do occur," he said. "Policing is a very tough and dangerous job, and we need to support those who stand between order and chaos on that thin blue line."


The candidates have some common ground. Both believe mankind is at least a factor in global climate change, and both also oppose a new tax on retirement benefits.

• Daily Herald staff writers Elena Ferrarin, Christopher Placek, Lauren Rohr and Barbara Vitello contributed to this report.

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