Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd), left, in 2019; Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx, right, in November.
Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd), left, in 2019; Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx, right, in November. | Rich Hein; Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times file.

The party voted on both matters during its Wednesday night meeting, the third time members of the Cook County Regular Democratic Organization have met during the pandemic.

The Cook County Democratic Party voted to slap the wrist of one of their own ward committeepersons on Wednesday for his decision to support the Republican who unsuccessfully challenged Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx last fall.

In addition to deciding to send a letter of reprimand to Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd), county Democratic leaders also voted to support state legislation that would create an elected school board — two bills that Mayor Lori Lightfoot vehemently opposes.

Earlier this week, one committeeperson called the expected support for the school board bills an extension of party Chairman Toni Preckwinkle’s political feud with her former rival in the 2019 mayoral race.

But a party spokeswoman insisted that the vote was not based on “some kind of petty rivalry.”

The party voted on both matters during its Wednesday night meeting, the third time members of the Cook County Regular Democratic Organization have met during the pandemic.

Members of the Cook County Democratic Party, reporters and guests attend a Zoom meeting on Wednesday.
Members of the Cook County Democratic Party, reporters and guests attend a Zoom meeting on Wednesday.

The letter of reprimand will go to Reilly, who backed former Cook County Judge Pat O’Brien over the Democratic incumbent, the party’s slated candidate, in the November general election.

At the time, Reilly — who doubles as the his downtown ward’s Democratic committeeperson — described himself as “a proud member of the Democratic Party and a Biden delegate.”

“But this is one race I’ll be voting independent of the ticket,” he told the Sun-Times.

At Wednesday night’s meeting, Ald. Chris Taliaferro (29th), who serves as his ward’s Democratic committeeperson and chair’s the party’s Bylaws and Rules Committee, said that body voted to send the letter to Reilly — who did not deny the support, which he had done publicly.

Republican challenger Pat O’Brien, left; Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx, right.
Rich Hein; Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times file
Republican challenger Pat O’Brien, left; Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx, right.

There was little debate or discussion.

Only four members voted against the reprimand.

The party voted 51 to 5 to support House and Senate bills creating an elected school board. That means letters backing the bills will be sent to state House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch and state Senate President Don Harmon.

“These are the bills that we can get behind,” Anthony Quezada, 35th Ward committeeperson, said during Wednesday’s meeting.

Quezada is chair of a new party committee that he said is tasked with creating a “policy agenda that addresses the substantive issues that are impacting all of our communities, and all of our districts that we represent.”

Four aldermen, who also represent their wards in the party’s ranks, voted against supporting the legislation: Raymond Lopez (15th), David Moore (17th), Michael Scott Jr. (24th) and Tom Tunney (44th).

Clerk of the Circuit Court Iris Martinez, who represents the 33rd Ward, also voted no.

Harmon, who is also Oak Park Township’s Democratic committeeperson, and former Speaker Michael Madigan, who is 13th Ward committeeperson, were among the members who did not attend the meeting.

State Senate President Don Harmon in 2017.
Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times file
State Senate President Don Harmon in 2017.

But Harmon issued a statement saying that he “fully” supports an elected school board.

“I’m working to gather all stakeholders to work collaboratively on a model that will ensure all voices are heard and promote success for all students,” the Oak Park Democrat said.

Before the vote, Tunney asked fellow committeepersons, “Do we just go back to the ballot box and get rid of the elected school board people with new people? … Let’s take worst case scenario, where the schools are failing, and who’s going to be held responsible?”

Lopez asked his suburban colleagues what they would say if Chicago ward committeepersons proposed resolutions calling for “downsizing some of the bureaucracy and bloat in the suburbs when it comes to townships and supervisors and trustees?”

“People would tell us to stay in our lane, and rightfully so.”

On Monday, Lopez — an outspoken Lightfoot critic — told the Sun-Times it “definitely feels like Preckwinkle is trying to put the screws to Mayor Lightfoot to take action on an elected school board — or at least show that [Cook County Board] President Preckwinkle is standing in solidarity with teachers.”

Delmarie Cobb, a party spokeswoman, said the policy committee decided to take up the issue because Chicago voters support an elected school board.

“It’s disheartening to think that, two years in, people are still thinking that this is about some kind of petty rivalry that’s still going on,” Cobb said.

Welch, whom Preckwinkle called a “personal friend,” also addressed the party’s ranks, expressing excitement for working with them “as we continue to help build our party.”

The speaker also telegraphed new life for Westlake Hospital, which closed nearly two years ago, despite the Hillside Democrat’s fight to keep it open.

On Tuesday, Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed into law legislation that cuts the regulatory tape for a potential buyer to reopen the safety-net hospital.

Asked at Wednesday’s meeting what’s next for the hospital, the new speaker said “stay tuned — it’s coming,” adding that “there’s going to probably be something to announce sooner than later.”