What a difference four years make.
Back in 2014, there was no Democratic candidate in the race for Cook County commissioners in the 17th District, a slice of western Cook County that runs from Tinley Park on the south to Des Plaines on the north and includes almost all of Riverside and Brookfield north of Southview Avenue.
This year, 29-year-old Harvard graduate Abdelnasser Rashid is mounting a challenge to incumbent Republican Sean Morrison, who was appointed to the Cook County Board seat in 2015 to replace Liz Gorman after she resigned to take a job in the private sector.
Rashid, who lives in Justice, is the son of Palestinian immigrants. If elected, he would be the first Arab Muslim to be elected to the county board. Rashid has been active in politics since the 2008 presidential campaign of Barack Obama.
In 2016, he was deputy director in Illinois for the Bernie Sanders for President campaign, and in 2015 he was the field director for the mayoral campaign of Jesus “Chuy” Garcia.
This spring he served as the deputy campaign manager for the successful Fritz Kaegi campaign for Cook County assessor. Rashid serves as the co-chairman of the Illinois/Chicago chapter of Our Revolution, an offshoot of the Sanders presidential campaign.
Rashid has worked for nearly three years as Deputy Chief of Staff for Cook County Clerk David Orr and before that worked for about two years as a policy director for the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights.
At an event at Steak + Vine restaurant in LaGrange on Aug. 9, Rashid was endorsed by Indivisible Brookfield and by Cristin Evans, a Riverside resident who is leader of Indivisible West Suburban Action League.
Rashid said that, unlike Morrison, he would be a full-time commissioner.
“I’m not going to be distracted by some corporate job,” Rashid said. “That’s his focus. Being a commissioner is just a side gig for him.”
Rashid attacked Morrison for lobbying local governments to opt out of the Cook County minimum-wage increase.
“He is one of the largest voices against workers in this county, and I’m going to be a strong advocate for workers and a strong partner with labor,” Rashid said.
In 2016, Hillary Clinton carried the 17th District with 50.4 percent of the vote and the Cook County Democratic Party, its coffers bolstered by a recent $500,000 contribution from gubernatorial candidate billionaire J.B. Pritzker, is targeting Morrison and two of the other three Republicans on the 17-member county board.
“We know the district is our favor,” Rashid told his supporters noting that he received nearly twice as many votes in the March primary than Morrison when they were both unopposed.
The Cook County Democratic Party is prepared to spend upwards of $100,000 on Rashid’s campaign and has already paid for a poll that showed Rashid with a 1-point lead over Morrison.
Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle is the new chairwoman of the Cook County Democratic Party and is eager to defeat Morrison, who was one of the leaders of successful repeal of the tax on sweetened beverages that Preckwinkle supported.
Morrison, of Palos Park, says that leading the effort to repeal the sweetened beverage tax was one of his biggest achievements in his three years on the county board. He said he opposed other tax increases and led efforts to cut county spending to the tune of $82 million this year.
Morrison says that taxes will be a big issue in this fall’s campaign.
“There is a terrible disparity between the services received by suburban Cook County and the amount of revenue that we put in through taxes,” Morrison said. “He doesn’t think so. He thinks we need to be taxed more; I don’t.”
Morrison, who founded and runs a private security firm, Morrison Security, called Rashid a socialist who has never held a private sector job.
“He’s a political operative,” Morrison said. “He’s worked for the Our Revolution socialist group. He goes on and off political payrolls so he’s a payroll dolt.”
Morrison said that the minimum wage should be set statewide, and he doesn’t believe that Cook County has the authority to set a minimum wage.
Some Rashid supporters are crying foul at a mailer from the Morrison campaign, showing an exploding mailbox spewing mud with the caption “Uh oh, More political mud from Abdelnasser.”
“The mailer from Sean Morrison with the mailbox exploding on the front side of it captures all the egregious, unethical, terrible stereotypes that are being promoted about Muslims,” said Mitzi Norton, a co-founder of Indivisible Brookfield. “He is trying to paint a picture of this man as an Islamic terrorist, and I am so offended that Sean Morrison represents me.”
But Morrison defended the piece, saying it is a cartoon image sent in response to negative attacks the Rashid campaign has leveled at him.
Morrison acknowledged that he is facing a tough race but predicted he would win handily.
“He’s going to have a lot of money to spend,” Morrison said.