Tough competition in Cook County Board races
March 8, 2018

By Rick Romano

Cook County Board primary elections bring challenges to Democratic incumbents in the 1st and 2nd Districts, while Democratic primaries feature candidates with-out an incumbent in the 3rd and 7th Districts. The 11th District presents two Republican candidates and an unopposed Democratic incumbent.

Richard Boykin.

1st District (D)

Incumbent Richard Boykin, an attorney with a JD from the University of Dayton School of Law, has held his seat since 2014. He previously was legislative director and chief of staff to U.S. Rep. Danny K. Davis after interning with U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush and serving a fellowship with former U.S. Senator Carol Moseley Braun. Boykin grew up in Englewood, and his website is

Boykin said repealing the soft drink tax should have little, if any, effect on County revenue. “I plan to fund in the same manner we have been doing, making sure we are efficient with the resources we have,” he said. “We passed the budget, and we didn’t devastate public health and safety.”

To ensure healthcare facilities such as Stroger Hospital run better, Boykin advocates recouping what has been identified by the hospital’s accounts receivable department as $100 million of unpaid bills by moving collections to a third party so the County can collect $50 million and improve training to avoid mistakes leading to litigation.

He said leaders can improve mental health services with more facilities such as the Westside Community Triage and Wellness Center, a Cook County partnership with Habilitative Systems and the Bobby E. Wright Comprehensive Behavioral Health Center. He favors this approach to mental health and substance abuse issues over providing those same services in a jail setting.

Boykin also focuses on job opportunities, gun violence, expanding use of law enforcement with a more visible, interactive police presence in the community, and fair property taxes, an issue he said must be remedied actively rather than “being put to another study.”

Brandon Johnson.

Brandon Johnson has been a Chicago Public Schools reading and social studies teacher and Chicago Teachers Union organizer for 11 years. He organized the CTU’s one-day strike in 2014. Johnson grew up on the West Side and holds a master’s degree in teaching from Aurora University in Aurora, IL. His website is at

To address the $200 million in funding lost by repealing the soft drink tax, Johnson said County government should advocate for an Illinois progressive income tax. He favors a corporate head tax for companies with more than 50 employees but wants to use tax breaks as incentives to hire employees from “our community.” He said addressing violence also would minimize costs associated with arrests and incarceration.

Improving healthcare services such as those at Stroger Hospital should include hiring enough doctors and nurses to treat patients in a timely manner. “This is a true priority,” he said. “You have to have enough people, including front-line staff and nurses, to run government. We can’t be afraid to say that.”

The key to available mental health services is offering them in schools “so we can address issues at the front end,” he explained. He also advocates juvenile justice system reform.

He also wants to create a “political vision” for the County. “There have been deep cuts and layoffs, and I want my candidacy to reflect that we need Democrats to be champions for the people,” he said. “Political engagement is good. We need people to get involved.”

Lupe Aguirre.

2nd District (D)

Lupe Aguirre is a Chicago police officer and attorney who earned his JD from Western Michigan University and a master’s degree in public administration at IIT. He was born in Durango, Mexico. For more about Aguirre, see

To recoup funds from the soft drink tax repeal, Aguirre wants to shrink government and rely on innovations such as filing court records electronically and combining County departments. “We should look at how the assessor’s office, for example, could be combined with another department,” he said.

Aquirre also wants to improve health care coordination within County facilities through partnerships such as those with the Jorge Prieto Family Health Center and the Greater Chicago Food Depository.

Partnerships also would increase mental health services availability, Aquirre said. “I support specialized behavioral and substance abuse clinics like the Community Triage Center, which provides evaluation, crisis stabilization, and treatment,” he added. He also supports treatment at the County’s community health centers and expanding addiction medicine by distributing naloxone to reverse the immediate effects of opioid abuse.

Aguirre’s other important issues involve the criminal justice system, where he favors reforms and less jail time for nonviolent offenders. “This would allow them to work so they don’t lose their jobs and their housing and so that they can continue their education and continue to be productive residents of the county,” he said. 

Dennis Deer.

Dennis Deer is the appointed incumbent, completing the term of 2nd District County Commissioner Robert Steele after Steele died in June, 2017. Deer previously founded and headed Deer Rehabilitation Services Inc., dedicated to mental health services, from 1997 to 2017. He grew up in Lawndale and earned a master’s degree in rehabilitation counseling from Jackson State University in Mississippi. See

To generate income after the soft drink tax repeal, Deer noted he would promote a Federally funded drug program that involves local commercial pharmacies, with potentially millions of dollars flowing back to County health services. To generate more income, “We have to cut waste,” he said. “We need to roll up our sleeves and become a leaner Cook County.”

Maintaining quality healthcare includes extending Stroger Hospital services into the community and re-opening and maintaining community health facilities as a “County without walls.” He would create a business fair to help connect with people who want to work for the County as well as more people who want to do business as outside vendors.

Deer said he helped form the Westside Community Triage and Wellness Center that brought together Habilitative Systems and Wright Comprehensive Behavioral Health Center as partners with the Cook County Health and Hospitals System. “A lot of people don’t even know they are affected” by trauma and untreated mental health issues that the center can address, Deer said. “The crisis is that we are not concerned enough” about issues such as trauma. “We need a commission to study and make recommendations.”

Deer also wants to address gun violence and economic development. He believes economic development leading to employment and entrepreneurial opportunities would help alleviate violence.

Eddie Johnson.

Chicago-born Eddie Johnson is executive director and board president of the Antioch Community Social Service Agency. Over the past 29 years he has worked for the Chicago Park District and Chicago Public Schools as an educator and coach. He attended Northeastern Illinois University and currently is a graduate student at Northern Seminary. For more information, go to

To offset revenue from the soft drink tax repeal, Johnson said the County should determine if all services are needed and cut those that are not. Also, “My vision is that we need to bring people back to the community, which will help property taxes and tweak the way the County purchases services,” Johnson said.

Maintaining quality at Stroger Hospital and other facilities will depend on developing outpatient facilities through district-wide clinics to take the burden off Stroger’s emergency services. “We need to focus on prevention and maintenance services,” he said. “That would be a great help.”

As for access to mental health services, Johnson said he is concerned about the number of closed clinics. “We need to develop a better working relationship with the City, the State, and the Federal government. We need to make sure the money goes where it does the most good.”

Several other issues have Johnson’s attention. He favors property tax reform and cleaning up the government process so special interest groups do not decide issues and choose elected officials.

Paul Montes.

Paul J. Montes was born and raised in Chicago and practices law in both the business and nonprofit sectors. He holds a law degree from Loyola University Chicago. Montes has served as a campaign manager and advisor for candidates as well as president and CEO of a small Chicago real estate brokerage, management, and development company. His website is

“The issue has independently resolved itself,” Montes said of the soft drink tax repeal, noting the 7% spending cuts in the recently passed County budget. “There may be additional avenues, such as shared costs, to save money,” he said. “There is always room for improvement.”

To ensure Stroger and other facilities operate optimally, Montes would audit services “to make sure our hospital system is failsafe” based on best practices concerning similar services nationally. He also favors a task force to look at all health services.

Regarding mental health service accessibility, Montes said officials should make improvements in the criminal justice system and at neighborhood clinics. “Mental health issues, drug issues, and law enforcement issues are all interrelated, so we need to pay attention,” he said.

A number of other issues are interrelated as well, he said. “We have to maintain a great County by maintaining our constituent base,” Montes said. “We have had too much migration out of the County. We need to make this a good place to raise a family, oppose any regressive tax, have good workforce development, and we need to ensure there is good health care.” 

Darryl Smith.

Darryl Smith is a third-generation resident of the 2nd District. A union construction laborer and community leader, Smith is president of the Englewood Political Task Force. He attended Moraine Valley Community College. He ran for State Representative in the 6th District in 2016. Learn more at

“My first proposal would be to lobby the State to bring casino gambling to Cook County,” he said in response to how to fund services now that lawmakers repealed the soft drink tax. He also proposes cutting in managerial and executive positions “and/or eliminate duplicitous and patronage positions” among the County’s

To ensure quality care at Stroger Hospital and other healthcare entities, Smith favors an oversight committee “comprised of medical professionals, administrators, and business people to assess existing services and make necessary recommendations.”

For better mental health service accessibility, Smith said he sees an urgent need through his current community work. “Understanding funding is an issue,” he said. “I would work tirelessly to eliminate those lack of accessibility issues and advocate for neighborhood clinics as well as for mental health services at Cook County Jail, where unfortunately many end up instead of in a facility to treat their mental illness.”

Smith also focuses on homelessness and affordable housing, which he said correlate to abandoned and vacant properties. He favors a joint effort of City, County, and suburban municipalities to provide training and employment for at-risk youth and young adults as well as putting properties back on the tax rolls.       

Joshua Gray.

3rd District (D)

Joshua Gray is a Chicago-born and raised educator with ten years of experience as a teacher, dean, and assistant principal. A graduate of Sam Houston University in Huntsville, TX, he is a former youth pastor and director of youth programming at St. Sabina Parish and former community organizer in the 5th, 6th, and 17th Wards.  He also launched the Southeast Legal Clinic. His website is

Adequately funding County services without a soft drink tax can occur “by eliminating wasteful spending and cutting top heavy administration,” Gray said. “You always hear about gutting positions like nurses and public defenders, but we need better oversight of how money is spent.”

Gray said ensuring quality healthcare services starts with oversight. “We should be more involved,” Gray said, noting that 40% of the County budget goes to healthcare. “You have to be involved in making sure services are competitive and are being utilized correctly,” he added.

Gray said the County should make mental health services one of its strengths. “There are a lot of people with PTSD [post-traumatic stress disorder], and we have to make sure they are getting the treatment they deserve,” he said. He said money to support community clinics could come from raising the tobacco tax and assessing companies properly. “Some states are legalizing marijuana,” he said. “Some people are against it, but I am open to a discussion.”

Gray’s other issues include reforming the Cook County Assessor’s office, equal pay for women and men, better oversight of County contracts, juvenile prison reform, and eliminating dual services between the County and municipalities.

Horace Washington Howard.

Horace Washington Howard has worked in government, social services, and non-profit organizations and as a Chicago Public Schools teacher. He earned degrees from DePaul University and the University of Chicago and currently attends Governors State University. His website is

His policy statement calls for redistributing wealth, a progressive income tax, a transaction tax on commodities at the Mercantile Exchange, a new funding formula for Chicago Public Schools to create fair property taxes for seniors and working families, and universal health care.

Howard wants to grow the County’s economy with a balance of supply-side and demand-side economics, creating capital, job growth, and productivity. He believes the State’s budget problems have hurt the County’s budget.

Attempts to reach the candidate were unsuccessful.

Bill Lowry.

Bill Lowry is an attorney and co-manager of a Chicago-based law firm who grew up on Chicago’s South Side and received his JD from Loyola University Chicago. His political experience includes serving as finance chair for Toni Periwinkle for County Board President and as a finance committee member for the Obama for President campaign. As a youth, he was active in Harold Washington’s campaign for mayor. See

Lowry said securing millions of dollars the State owes the County from the past two years when the State lacked a budget is key to recouping funds lost from the soft drink tax repeal. “There is a similar opportunity to secure Federal funds,” he said, adding that “we need to find friends in Washington.”

He favors a “fair tax system” that generates funds from “those who have the ability to pay.”

Regarding Stroger Hospital and other healthcare facilities, Lowry said he would rely on his experience in small business to establish expectations for quality services. He favors annual performance evaluations that strengthen good relations between labor and management. “We also need a mechanism to get feedback from patients,” Lowry said. He favors an independent hospital board and transparency concerning County Board involvement with procurement.

For mental health service accessibility, Lowry supports public-private partnerships and points to his involvement in Bright Star Community Outreach, which targets community development and economic opportunity to minimize effects of mental health issues.

Lowry’s other issues include economic development and job creation. “We need this throughout the entire district,” Lowry said. 

Erick Nickerson.

Erick Nickerson is semi-retired with experience as senior managing partner of CCG Marketing Solutions, among other local businesses. He is a former assistant director of community development in the State Treasurer’s Office and the former Mayor of Dixmoor, IL. He holds a business development degree from the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff. His website is

With the soft drink tax repeal, Nickerson said officials should emphasize local debt recovery including unpaid taxes, fees, and parking tickets—Nickerson wants the Cook County Sheriff’s Police to ticket more aggressively in unincorporated areas. He also wants to examine County employment, specifically unfilled positions that remain in the budget. “You need to look at all of those things,” Nickerson said. “We need to find best practices rather than all of those studies.”

To increase mental health accessibility, Nickerson wants the State to “broaden their budget” to help ensure coverage for all counties. “This is not merely a Cook County issue; we just happen to have the largest population,” he said. “Chicago is overwhelmed with needs including homelessness and veterans’ requirements. We should be able to take the politics out of it and take care of the people.”

Nickerson also focuses on employment and business issues. “Important to me is creating an opportunity for individuals,” he said. “We need to bring people back to work behind these smart technologies. If we can provide a conduit to attract businesses without taxing the heck out of them, then we could provide jobs and educational opportunities.”

Charisse Williams.

Charisse Williams was born in Chicago and is deputy chief for civic engagement for the Illinois State Treasurer, Mike Frerichs. She holds a master’s degree in public policy studies from the University of Chicago with a focus on education and labor policy. For more information, see

“Residents are tired of being overtaxed,” Williams said regarding ways to fund services beyond the soft drink tax. “It’s a regressive tax.” She said the County Board should be addressing the possibility of taxing legalized marijuana. “I would also streamline services to avoid duplication. An example of that is the procurement process. And I would work with the State and Federal governments to make sure our health care costs are contained.”

To maximize accessibility to mental health services, Williams advocates preventive care like that offered at Oak Street Health, with its multiple locations around and near the city. “The County is focusing more now than before, but the County can’t do it by themselves,” she said. “The City and State need to get involved.” Williams said the approach needs to include dealing with violence and substance abuse because “the focus from all stakeholders needs to be on the bigger things.”

Williams also re-emphasized the County’s need to review contracts and procurement beyond healthcare. Pointing out that Cook County is the second largest county in the nation but has the highest unemployment rate, she said leaders must a focus on employment and contracting opportunities for African Americans. Property tax fairness and education resources round out her concerns.

Steven R. Wolfe.

Steven R. Wolfe is Chicago born and raised, with 15 years of experience in engineering and corporate strategy for Ameritech and SBC. Most recently, he participated in financial operations for an independent obstetrics and gynecology practice. He holds a master’s degree in business administration from St. Louis University in St. Louis, MO. On Facebook, type in Vote for Wolfe for more information.

To generate funds after the soft drink tax repeal, Wolfe favors issuing County bonds, finding value in unused real estate spread throughout the area, and exploring how the County can receive a larger share of the State’s toll road revenues. “There also may be opportunities to offer advertising space at some County properties,” he said.

Also, increasing efficiencies in technology and engineering can help ensure quality care at health facilities, including correctly deploying staffing, locations, and scheduling, Wolfe noted. “One of the challenges is that we see a lot of people in the emergency room,” he said. “It’s an opportunity to emphasize education and preventive care.”

For mental health service availability, Wolfe emphasizes addressing opioid addiction and overdoses. “We need to ensure equal access” by “shining a light” on insurance company behavior to assure coverage for addiction services.

Wolfe identified economic development, fair property tax assessments, and improved public safety as important issues. He wants fairer access to government contracts, less of a tax burden on low income residents and burgeoning businesses, and speedy trials for offenders, along with less jail time for nonviolent offenses. 

Alma Anaya.

7th District (D)

Alma Anaya has served in government for six years, most recently as director of administration with 7th District Commissioner Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, who is stepping down to run for Congress. Anaya will receive a master’s degree in public administration this spring from the University of Illinois at Chicago. A resident of Pilsen, she grew up on the Southwest Side. Anaya was born in Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico and came to the U.S. at age six. To learn more, log on to

In response to the soft drink tax repeal, Anaya favors property tax reform with the ideal outcome of assessments that are fair to working class families. Revenue generation could take the form of an increase in the gasoline tax and holding a referendum for approving marijuana sales and taxes associated with it.

To improve healthcare services including those at Stroger Hospital, Anaya noted the need for more accountability for how staff treat patients. “We need to push accountability for making sure there are friendly people who speak all languages, she said.” Anaya also noted the need for access to health care delivered outside the hospital.

Addressing mental health, Anaya advocates more emphasis on prevention and, when necessary, the jail system. “I am researching ways that the County can develop community partnerships to render services in the most cost effective manner,” she said.

Other top issues for Anaya include criminal justice system reform, helping people feel safe in their community, and improving access to all County services.

Angeles (Angie) Sandoval.

Angeles (Angie) Sandoval is an account manager for Common-wealth Edison. She grew up in Gage Park and earned a master’s degree in public policy and administration at National Louis University. For more information, see

To recoup funds lost by the soft drink tax repeal, she favors legalizing cannabis and having big developers pay their fair share of property taxes. At the same time, she wants the County to reform residential property taxes because she said officials unfairly assess lower income households. “We need a full study and reform,” she said.

To fund healthcare facilities properly, Sandoval wants more emphasis on the growing Latino population. “A lot of people feel there are not enough people in healthcare who speak Spanish,” she said. “There needs to be more language-ready caregivers. They have to be very visible so that this population can get into the door.” In general, Sandoval said the County Board needs to get more involved in Stroger Hospital, which has its own board. “We need to be able to review any budgets or proposals, including how they are staffing,” she said.

Mental health services should come through collaboration between County medical facilities and other non-profit clinics, a trend that she sees growing.

Sandoval sees two other issues as major: women running for office and helping residents understand their taxes. “There are not enough women and women of color who represent communities,” she said. “And we don’t have enough tax literacy. People need to know more about the process and have the kind of perspective in which they can ask good questions.”

John P. Daley.

11th District (D)

Incumbent John P. Daley has served on the Cook County Board since 1992 and chairs the Finance and Audit Committees. He previously served in the State’s House of Representatives and the Illinois State Senate. Daley is running unopposed in the Democratic primary. For more on Daley, see

Daley said repealing the soft drink tax and balancing the budget represent the biggest accomplishments of the most recent term.

“The biggest challenge for the County Board going forward is finding the resources to continue providing important public safety and public health services while also ensuring the long-term fiscal health of the County and its pension system,” Daley said.

11th District (R)

Carl Segvich currently serves as 11th Ward Republican Committeeman. He is a self-employed operator of a regional transportation service and the national political advisor for Restore American Liberty, a conservative organization that teaches the relationship between human virtue and freedom. More on Segvich can be found at

Carl Segvich.

Calling the now-repealed soft drink tax “unjust” and “an excuse for failing to control shameless political patronage,” Segvich said the County Board “will be forced to live within its means and adjust County expenditures downward.” Noting it is “time for the public sector to stop cannibalizing the private sector,” he favors growing private sector employment to result in more taxpayers moving into instead of out of the County.

As for ensuring good healthcare at Stroger Hospital and other facilities, Segvich strongly opposes costs associated with abortion procedures and caring for those with AIDS. “We must include the Archdiocese of Chicago’s Catholic Church into public conversation on this morally defining issue of our day,” he said. “As a society we have allowed politicians to be utter perpetual hypocrites while we don’t demand intellectual debate.”

For mental health services, Segvich wants to re-evaluate the need to maintain current service levels and cut non health-related expenditures. He favors zero-based budgeting and less reliance on government in healing mental illness and more on church and family “to calm our stress and anxiety.”

Other issues important to Segvich include illegal aliens and “fake media” as harmful to society.     

Steven S. Graves is a local real estate broker who specializes in investment and property taxation as well as commercial and residential properties. He did not respond to a request for biographic information or to questions posed to him for this article.