CHICAGO - The normally low-key campaign for Cook County Assessor has turned into a bruising battle between three candidates.
As Cook County Assessor Joe Berrios announced an extension to the senior citizen property tax exemption, his democratic primary opponent Fritz Kaegi stood outside the Assessor's office to once again denounce Berrios' longtime practice of taking campaign contributions from property tax attorneys.
"Over half of the campaign money that goes into the Joe Berrios account comes from the property tax appeals industries," said Kaegi.
In exchange for campaign cash, Kaegi says Berrios gives big tax breaks to the clients of tax attorneys. While Kaegi pledges not to take a dime from lawyers who do business with the Assessor's office, he has dumped a million dollars of his own money into the campaign and is prepared to spend more if needed.
"This is an expensive race," he said.
Some of Kaegi's expense has been used on successfully challenging a third candidate's nominating petitions.
This week, a Cook County election official recommended that Andrea Raila be knocked off the ballot for an alleged pattern of fraud with thousands of her petition signatures, something Raila strongly denies.
"Those qualities that he picked out are right out of the playbook of how to kick a candidate off the ballot," Raila said.
She says Kaegi challenged her petitions because he doesn't want to have a woman in the race. Others say Kaeigi has better chance of beating Berrios with Raila off the ballot.
While Kaeigi says he plans to focus his efforts on Joe Berrios, the Assessor refused to answer any political questions Wednesday.
"This is a government office, if you want to ask political questions, we have to be off the premises," said Berrios.
Joe Berrios refused ABC7's request to answer political questions at a different location.
Meantime, if the Cook County electoral board accepts a hearing officer's recommendation to remove Andrea Raila off the ballot, she will appeal. There is a hearing expected either Friday or Monday.