Cook County Democrats defend against 'politics as usual' claims in Court Clerk endorsement

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Cook County Democratic leaders are disputing allegations that it was "politics as usual" that led to their endorsement in a key race up for grabs next year.

Dorothy Brown announced this week that she plans to retire as Clerk of the Circuit Court after nearly two decades.

RELATED: Cook County Circuit Court Clerk Dorothy Brown to not seek reelection
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Dorothy Brown has served as record-keeper of Cook County's court system for 19 years, and now she's ready to take on a new challenge.

On Friday, candidates vying to replace Brown made their case before the county's Democratic slating committee. Many criticized the way Brown has run the record-keeping office for the county's court system.

"The office really has been stuck in 2000, and again up until recently you had to bring carbon paper to every courthouse," said Michael Cabonargi, a candidate and Commissioner for the Cook County Board of Review.

Richard Boykin, a challenger in the race, said that the "kinds of reforms that need to be made have not been made just yet."

Candidates also voiced concerns about integrity in the office, with the cloud of a federal investigation hanging over Brown for several years.

Mariyana Spyropoulos said she's "running to restore trust to court system."

"The clerk's office has been in the papers for all the wrong reasons," Spyropoulos said.

But the 80-member slating committee also came under fire. Democratic leaders were accused of "politics as usual" for making up their minds to support Michael Cabonargi long before the meeting.
"Voters sent a clear message when they elected Lori Lightfoot. They are tired with the backroom deals or tired of hearing about scandals," said State Sen. Iris Martinez.

Challenger Jacob Meister argued that, "If you choose to support a candidate who has a dark cloud of ethical or pay-to-play just because there's a secret backroom deal, you are abandoning and simply not listening to the voters."

Party leaders and Cabonargi dismissed the allegations.

"There were no backroom deals. The only backroom deals are people doing the work talking to all 80 committeemen asking, soliciting for support," said Rod Sawyer, the countywide committee chairman.

Cabonargi said the endorsement process has been "open and transparent."

The endorsement may help Cabonargi raise money. But it could also help his opponents raise concerns about the Cook County Democratic Party and the need for change, an issue that propelled Lori Lightfoot's landslide victory in the mayor's race against party leader Toni Preckwinkle.
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