It's suburbs vs. Chicago for control of Illinois Democratic Party

  • Robin Kelly

    Robin Kelly

  • Cristina Castro

    Cristina Castro

  • Michelle Harris

    Michelle Harris

Updated 2/26/2021 8:16 PM

Lines are being drawn within the Illinois Democratic Party between suburban and Chicago Democrats as the party prepares to select a new chairman after the 23-year tenure of Michael Madigan.

State Rep. Fred Crespo of Hoffman Estates and the Illinois Legislative Latino Caucus have endorsed state Sen. Christina Castro of Elgin to lead Illinois Democrats.


U.S. Rep. Robin Kelly of Chicago is backed for the party leadership by state central committeewoman Carol Ronen of the 9th Congressional District, which includes parts of parts of Arlington Heights, Mount Prospect, Des Plaines and Park Ridge.

A third candidate on the ballot for party chairman is Chicago Alderman Michelle Harris.

Latino caucus members have endorsed Castro for the position, citing a growth in the Latino population statewide.

"Failure to incorporate Latinx growth into party leadership would be overlooking a very important and growing constituency," caucus leaders said in a statement Thursday. "The party must commit to investing in Latinx communities to secure the future of the state of Illinois. We urge the state central committee to elect Sen. Cristina Castro to chair the Democratic (Party) of Illinois."

The letter was signed by 10 members of the caucus.

Ronen's backing could give Kelly an edge. Ronen's vote, along with that of Cook County Board of Review Commissioner Michael M. Cabonargi, also a 9th District Democratic state central committeeman, carries the most weight.

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"(Kelly) is a great congressperson; she represents a district that is a little urban, suburban, rural," Ronen said. "She knows the state. She's worked for the treasurer's office, she's run statewide. I just think she's got great background and credentials to be a good spokesperson for our party and to be our leader."

Crespo said he supports Castro even though he doesn't have a vote, citing the growth of the Latino population, the growth of the suburbs and the need for an Illinois-centric candidate.

Crespo said he worries Kelly's focus could be too D.C.-centric, while Harris' could be too Chicago-focused.

"I also believe whoever gets that job should be pretty rooted in the state of Illinois. I am not sure if a congressperson who spends a lot of time in Washington knows what's really going on the ground level," he said.

"Certainly a Chicago alderperson is going to be very Chicago-centric, I am not sure what understanding they have of outside of Chicago whether it be downstate or the suburbs. I would argue that Chicago officials know Chicago very well, but I don't know that they know downstate or suburbs very well."

No official date has been set for the committee to meet and select a new chair, but a letter was sent to acting chairwoman and Cook County Clerk Karen Yarborough to hold a public meeting March 6.


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