CHICAGO (WLS) -- After days of speculation, Cook County Circuit Court Clerk Dorothy Brown has decided not to seek re-election.
Brown has served as record-keeper of the county's court system for nearly two decades, and now she's ready to take on a new challenge that doesn't include seeking another political office.
"You know, I just decided that... November 3rd of 2020, I will have 20 years. I will be fully vested. So it's a good, solid foundation to catapult me to the next level," Dorothy Brown said. "I'll be able to help other people."
Brown, who's held the role since 2000, said the ongoing federal probe into pay-to-play allegations in her office wasn't a factor in her decision not to seek re-election.
"There were people that, since day one, didn't like the fact that I was here, did not like the fact that I was elected to this office, and attempted to take me down, all of this time. Went over to that federal government and told those lies," Brown said.
As Brown looks back over her time in office, she said she has a lot of pride in her legacy. She described her time in public service as a privilege.
"I am so proud of the fact that people come to me and talk about the fact that I even responded to them while they were in prison. They were able to get out of prison because of my staff providing them with information," Brown said.
The announcement comes ahead of the Cook County Democratic Party candidate slating that's set to begin Thursday.
"It is a wide open field. She has such big name recognition. She was going to be seen as very hard to beat and now anyone can get into that race," said ABC 7 Political Analyst Laura Washington. "I think it's going to be very crowded and anyone can win."
So far, four people are in the race, including State Sen. Iris Martinez, and that number is likely to grow.
Martinez said Brown "did the right thing" by announcing she wouldn't seek another term.
"It is time to turn the page and chart a new course," Martinez said.
She urged for other "county leaders to avoid the back room deals and pay-to-play culture that has done so much damage to our party's reputation in recent years."
Other candidates also issued strong statements after Brown's announcement.
Jacob Meister, who's among the challengers, warned that the county's Democratic Party may be "headed towards slating yet another ethically bankrupt candidate to head the Clerk's office."
Mike Cabonargi's spokesman said the Cook County Board of Review Commissioner's interest in becoming the next Circuit Court Clerk "was never about Dorothy Brown."
"It's always been about his vision for a more accessible, efficient and ethically sound governmental office the people of Cook County could be proud of," said spokesman Ron Holmes.
Mariyana Spyropoulos released a statement saying in part, "The person charged with maintaining a smooth and efficient court system should not be under federal investigation. We should all agree that on that her retirement from public office is good for the public and I wish her well."
Cook County Circuit Court Clerk Dorothy Brown to not seek reelection after nearly 2 decades
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