Don't Mess With Big Joe | Bleader

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Don't Mess With Big Joe

Posted By on 11.05.09 at 06:29 PM

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Two weeks ago, Andrea Raila was eagerly gathering signatures to her nominating petitions and talking about cleaning up our rancid property tax system once she got elected Cook County Assessor.

Today, she withdrew from the race.

Apparently, she didn't gather enough signatures.

"I got over 12,000," she said.

And?

"I needed 16,000."

Actually, she needed 8,147 signatures to be exact. But rule of thumb is that she needed at least twice as many signatures as the law requires in order to survive a challenge she knew was coming from Joe Berrios, who is, among other things, the chairman of the Cook County Democratic Party, a long-serving commissioner of the property tax board of review, and the front runner in the race to succeed Jim Houlihan as assessor. Houlihan is not running for re-election.

Soon after Railia submitted her petitions last week they were scrutinized by First Ward Democratic Committeeman Jesse Juarez, a Joe Berrios ally. Raila saw the writing on the wall.

"I was proud of getting 12,000, but once I saw someone had pulled them I knew they probably wouldn't be enough," she says. "I talked to my family and supporters and my lawyer [Richard Means] and I decided that it would be too risky and expensive to go through the challenge."

She says she's thinking of running for Berrios's old seat on the tax appeal board, presuming that he's elected assessor.

At the moment that looks like a safe bet. Three other candidates have filed — including former aldermen Robert Shaw and Raymond Figueroa. Berrios wouldn't come right out and claim he was going to challenge any or all of them, but he came pretty close. (Monday is the first day petitions can be officially challenged.)

"Let's just say we're looking at other petitions [besides Raila's]," he said.

All in all, the old political pro was playing it cagey, professing not to even know that Raila had withdrawn, though it been posted on on the county clerk's Web site.

"She withdrew?" he said, when I called for comment.

"You mean, you didn't know?" I asked.

He laughed.

I know, I know — it's hard for wannabe reformers to challenge the political system in this city. It's set up to protect the incumbents. It's like they say in boxing — if you want to beat the champ, you'd better knock him out.

Or, in this case, at least make the ballot.

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