By Dermot Connolly
Incumbent Commissioner Sean Morrison of the Cook County Board’s 17th District retained office by an ultra-thin margin Tuesday, besting Democratic challenger Abdelnasser Rashid of Justice.
With all 257 precincts reporting, Morrison had 60,290 votes (50.85 percent) to 58,267 (49.15 percent) for Rashid, according to Cook County Clerk David Orr’s office.
Rashid conceded defeat Wednesday morning.
On Tuesday night, both candidates were closely watching the results at their respective Election Night parties—Rashid at the Pita, Pita restaurant on LaGrange Road in Orland Park, and Morrison at Hackney’s, a few miles north in Palos Park. Neither was ready to declare victory or accept defeat.
The 17th District includes all or parts of municipalities in the townships of Orland, Palos, Worth, Lyons, Bremen, Elk Grove, Lemont, Leyden, Maine, Proviso and Riverside.
“Today, we dominated 25 precincts in Orland and Palos,” Rashid, 29, told a cheering crowd of supporters. “It’s not over yet. Every vote should be counted and we’re going to make sure that they are. We need all mail ballots and provisionals counted to see how close this race really is.”
“We always knew this would come down to the wire and it has. We took on and challenged the chairman of the Cook County Republican Party and look how far we have come,” said the candidate, a Harvard University graduate who left his position as deputy chief of staff for Cook County David Orr to run for his first elective office.
Morrison, 51, of Palos Park, who also serves as the Republican committeeman for Palos Township, was appointed to the 17th District seat when Liz Gorman resigned in 2015. She was at his party Tuesday night, watching with everyone else for the results to come in.
Taking a break from the computer screen for a moment, Morrison said he didn’t expect the race to be this close, “Until what I saw was happening with Democrats (winning) all over Illinois.”
“JB Pritzker spent $350 million on Democratic races across the state, and I think we are seeing the results here,” said Morrison.
Worth Mayor Mary Werner was among the local officials at Morrison’s party.
“Everyone knew I was supporting Sean because he helped us repeal the sweetened beverage tax. That hurt a lot of businesses in Worth,” said Werner. “He is one of the few commissioners who always look out for the taxpayer.”
“I think the Democrats spent a lot of money on these races. But I am still hopeful Sean will win,” said Palos Township Trustee Sharon Brannigan, who was nearby, watching the results projected on a wide screen.
Brannigan herself has been a controversial figure for the past year. She has apologized for comments made on Facebook that Rashid called “outrageous,” which suggested that undocumented Middle Eastern students were coming into local schools, and Muslim immigrants weren’t integrating into the community. Since the comments came to light more than a year ago, protesters calling for her resignation or removal have been attending monthly Palos Township meetings.
The incident has been credited with getting many local Arab-Americans politically active, and Rashid, the son of Palestinian immigrants, cited it as one of many reasons for his candidacy. The deputy state director for Sen. Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign in 2016, Rashid said he driven by his “passion for justice and fairness.”
Tarek Khalil, a supporter of Rashid, noted that the first Palestinian-American woman, Rashida Tlaib, was elected to Congress in Michigan on Tuesday. “But (Rashid’s) Palestinian-ness isn’t the only reason we support just has the best policies for everyone.”
“No matter what happens, we’ve won already, if you think about it,” said Dave Shalabi of Orland Park, another supporter, looking around at the packed room at Rashid’s party. “Hundreds of people got involved in this effort, and we raised funds from inside and outside the area. And the campaign always took the high ground, always with integrity,” said Shalabi.
In the other local Cook County Board race, Democrat Donna Miller running unopposed to win her first term as commissioner of the 6th District. The Lynwood resident succeeds Edward Moody of Chicago Ridge, who chose not to run for election after being appointed to complete the term of Commissioner Joan Murphy when she died in 2016.