Embattled incumbent Cook County Assessor Joe Berrios conceded to challenger Fritz Kaegi in the Democratic primary on Tuesday, admitting to a stunning defeat before the votes were even totaled.
The beleaguered Berrios, who also serves as the chair of the Cook County Democratic Party, was beset by scandals and left vulnerable at the right moment for Kaegi to strike.
Kaegi led Berrios 42 to 32 points in the final poll before Election Day, released Saturday by Victory Research, which found that 14 percent of the 701 likely Democratic primary voters polled were undecided, while 12 percent supported a third candidate, Andrea Raila.
Raila remained on the ballot after a protracted battle at the Board of Elections, her victory also serving as a victory for Berrios, who stood to benefit from her receiving votes that may have gone to Kaegi, his more formidable opponent.
However, Raila’s spot on the ballot wasn’t enough to save Berrios, who conceded just before 8:20 p.m.
Three members of Congress were among those endorsing Kaegi, as Berrios faced fallout over the past year of multiple reports and investigations alleging that his office has failed to assess, or improperly assessed, thousands of properties in the county.
Reps. Danny K. Davis (7th), Bill Foster (11th) and Robin Kelly (2nd), all Democrats, threw their support behind Kaegi in December, saying he would “bring professionalism and accountability, and restore confidence in the office.”
Their endorsement came days after a Chicago Tribune/ProPublica Illinois investigation revealed that Berrios did not estimate the value of thousands of properties, sometimes simply carrying over one number from one year to the next.
The analysis also alleged that errors in Berrios’ system created “deep inequities” that punished small businesses while “cutting a break” to owners of high-value properties – ultimately forcing homeowners to pay more in property taxes.
That report was the publication’s second on Berrios’ practices, after a June investigation brought to light widespread inequities in the county's residential property tax system.
Those investigations have brought the political ties of Berrios into the spotlight.
The Cook County Board of Commissioners questioned him in July, asking why tax attorneys are allowed to contribute to his campaign fund – an area in which Berrios said he was open to discussing changes.
Kaegi has said he believes taking contributions from the lawyers who appeal taxes is corrupt, vowing not do so in his campaign - a stance that supporters praised as a promise “to take politics out” of the assessor’s office.