A Voter's Guide to the Cook County Commissioner's Race

 /  March 6, 2018, 9:16 p.m.


In the March 20 primary elections, voters will be able to choose among seven democratic candidates to represent them on the Cook County Board of Commissioners. District 3 extends Ashburn to Woodlawn and then along Lake Michigan to Old Town; the District 3 Commissioner will represent a large number of Chicago residents and it is therefore crucial that voters make an informed choice as to their commissioner.

Why You Should Care

The Cook County Board of Commissioners is the governing board and legislative body of the county. It is composed of 17 members, one from each district, each serving a four-year term and representing approximately 300,000 Chicagoans. Every year, the board appropriates funds for the entire county. They also are responsible for setting policy and laws for property, public health services, public safety, and the maintenance of county highways. The board is currently composed of 13 Democrats and 4 Republicans; this years’ candidates are competing to replace incumbent Democrat Jerry Butler.


  1. Erick Nickerson has worked for nearly 25 years with the State of Illinois and has served as the mayor of Dixmoor, Illinois, and is currently working as a Community Business Development Specialist. He has also served as an Executive Board member of InfraGuard, Chicago Chapter, an organization that helps experts in the public and private sectors to network to help them better protect Chicago’s infrastructure. He worked in the Illinois State Treasurer’s Office as a liaison between federal agencies and communities in Chicago and across the state. As commissioner, he hopes to improve employment by accessing high-level technology firms that will hire individuals from Chicago’s city colleges and universities to fight for affordable housing for Chicago’s families.
  2. Charise A. Williams was raised on the South Side of Chicago. After attending state college, she pursued a Master’s of Public Policy at the University of Chicago. Her interest in public service was cemented when, during her Master’s program, her then-12 year old son fell ill and was treated to recovery by Cook County’s health care system. Williams interned for Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle after her election in 2012, and has maintained her political involvement through mentorship and leadership in programs such as Chicago Scholars, LINK Unlimited, and the Woodlawn, Washington Park, South Shore Community and Economic Development Organization.
  3. Bill Lowry was raised in the South Side of Chicago and attended Lake Forest College, where he graduated with a history degree and a minor in political science in 1984. He became active in local politics while in college, joining the historic campaign for Harold Washington for Mayor of Chicago. Lowry earned his JD from Loyola University Law School in 1987, with former Supreme Court Associate Justice Thurgood Marshall as his mentor. As a lawyer, he focused on employer liability and workers’ compensation law. In 2014, he became the first African-American person to serve on the Illinois Capital Development Board. He also founded The It’s Time Organization to reduce violence by creating jobs and opportunities for young people in response to the shooting death of a young neighbor outside his home. Throughout his campaign Lowry has emphasized the need for high-quality physical and mental healthcare for Chicago’s residents.
  4. Horace “Washington” Howard graduated from DePaul University in 1994 with a BA in Political Science, and is currently working on an MA in political science/criminal justice from Governor State University. Howard has a deep history in Chicago’s institutions, having worked as a circuit court clerk in Cook County, a Mayor and Alderman Administrative Assistant, a teacher in Chicago Public Schools, a mental health organizer in Southside Together Organizing for Power, and a volunteer at Access Chicago, among other positions. As commissioner, Howard plans to take a long-term approach to the city budget by streamlining administrative areas and collaborating with other counties in Illinois to reduce expenditures.
  5. Patricia Horton earned a BA in organizational management from North Park University and a liberal arts degree in applied science from Truman College. She was elected as a commissioner for the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Cook County in 2006, where she helped to cut energy costs by re-negotiating prices with suppliers. After her 6-year term, Horton ran for reelection to the MWRD board and lost. In 2014, she was charged with assault ( a misdemeanor) after threatening a 50-year-old man after a court proceeding at the Daley Center when she was the tenant in a landlord-tenant case. Horton has structured her Cook County Commissioner campaign around economic development, job creation, and the environment. She has also pledged to fight against the soda tax as well as property taxes that disadvantage low-income Chicago seniors and families.
  6. Steven R. Wolfe earned a BS in Electrical Engineering from the Illinois Institute of Technology and an MBA from Washington University in St. Louis. Wolfe has said he will call for a freeze on property taxes in the county until the property assessment system is adjusted so that it does not advantage minorities and working-class families. He has also advocated for giving detainees speedy trials and releasing non-violent pre-trial detainees from Cook County Jail. In tandem, he hopes to institute restorative justice in order to prevent recidivism of offenders.
  7. Joshua Gray, a resident of South Shore, earned a BS in marketing from Sam Houston State University in 2005. He has worked as a community organizer in many of Chicago’s neighborhoods, and served for ten years as a teacher, dean, and assistant principal in Chicago Public Schools. He is also the former youth pastor and director of youth programming at St. Sabina Church under Father Michael Pfleger and was recruited by former U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan to supervise over $1 million in grant funding for youth summer programs. As commissioner, Gray hopes to draw on his experience with youth programming to work on juvenile reform, by creating programs that focus on job training and placements for teens, young adults, and ex-offenders. He also believes that Chicago is subject to extreme over-taxation, and, like Wolfe, is calling for a property tax moratorium while the current system is evaluated.

For more information, we recommend readers check out these articles:

The featured image is licensed under the Creative Commons; the original can be found here.

Kaeli Subberwal

Kaeli Subberwal is a fourth-year majoring in political science and minoring in physics. She has spent her summers working in local journalism at the Summit Daily News and national journalism at HuffPost, and doing archival research through the College Summer Institute in the Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences. In her free time, Kaeli enjoys reading, hiking in the Rocky Mountains, and doing crossword puzzles instead of studying.


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