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Kaegi Defeats Berrios In Cook County Assessor's Race

Cook County Assessor candidate Fritz Kaegi

Former investment fund manager Fritz Kaegi defeated incumbent Joe Berrios in the Democratic primary race for Cook County Assessor yesterday, in one of the most closely watched races in the area. Kaegi had 46% of total votes to Berrios' 34%. A third candidate, Andrea Raila, had 21%. In heavily Democratic Cook County, Kaegi's win all but guarantees he will be elected in the general election in November.

But Kaegi may face a legal challenge to his victory. Raila was removed from the ballot prior to the election after a petition challenge from Kaegi. An appellate court ruled last week that she be added to the ballot. In a miscommunication with the Chicago Board of Elections, several precincts included notices in the ballots that Raila was not legally a candidate and a vote from her would not be counted. The Board of Elections claims that was remedied, but Raila is calling for the election to be invalidated and a special election take place.

Kaegi said he received a congratulatory call from Raila after he was declared the winner.

Rising property taxes in Cook County became a prominent issue as Chicago, Cook County and Illinois struggled with budget and pension woes. A series of investigations by the Chicago Tribune and ProPublica Illinois highlighted a wide disparity in property assessments, and what commercial property owners and wealthy homeowners pay in property taxes compared to lower-income homeowners. And Kaegi, who vowed not to accept campaign contributions from developers and powerful property tax attorneys as a candidate or Assessor, donated $1.6M to his own campaign.

Kaegi promised to modernize and make transparent how the Assessor's office values Cook County's 1.8 million parcels, which he said will make assessments more uniform and accurate. At Bisnow's Chicago Capital Markets event last week, Baker Development principal Daniel Slack said a rebalancing of assessments is guaranteed.

"The cat is out of the bag. People have said enough is enough," Slack said. "Rebalancing will make property taxes more predictable."