CHICAGO (CBS) — Cook County Democratic Party bosses have voted to dump Circuit Court Clerk Dorothy Brown from the party’s 2016 ticket, amid a federal probe into the clerk and her husband, and instead gave their support to Ald. Michelle Harris (8th).
Democratic committeemen voted 79 to 80 on Friday to rescind the party’s endorsement of the four-term incumbent, who is up for re-election next year.
Although party bosses gave Brown a second chance to be endorsed for 2016, they ended up backing Harris, a close ally of Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
Harris said she would help to restore public trust in government.
“The residents of Cook County deserve honest and accountable public servants. We are public servants here face a harsh reality. The public trust in government is severely fragile. We cannot ignore or allow it to continue. The residents of Cook County deserve to have their trust restored. I’m eager to do my part to restore that trust,” she said.
Some Democratic leaders were angry with Brown, believing she lied to them earlier this year in endorsement interviews, when she insisted she isn’t under investigation.
A federal probe of a real estate deal involving Brown’s husband has expanded to include the clerk herself. Federal investigators have refused to confirm published reports they visited her South Shore home last week, but Brown conceded an FBI agent approached her with a subpoena for her cell phone.
However, Brown said she does not know who is the target of the federal probe.
“I was not told who was a target of … the reason for needing my cell phone, and therefore I do not know who is a target of their investigation, but investigations are started all the time. Many of you have probably had investigations going,” she said.
According to the Sun-Times, part of the probe has focused on loans or money given to Brown by her employees, allegedly in exchange for jobs or promotions.
Brown insisted she has “operated with highest integrity.”
“I deserve your continued endorsement, because in my heart of hearts I know I have not done anything wrong. It’s really unfair to even consider rescinding an endorsement based on innuendoes,” she said.
Brown went so far as to claim the committeemen did not have legal standing to withdraw their support, claiming a $25,000 campaign contribution to the party’s political fund made the party’s endorsement an enforceable contract.
“I would say an endorsement of me is like a contract, because when I paid that $25,000, and the party actually cashed that check, that created a contract,” she said.
Withdrawing party endorsement of Brown wouldn’t prevent her from running in the Democratic primary, but she would lose party support such as campaign funding and staffing.
Also seeking the party’s endorsement were attorney Jacob Meister, who ran for U.S. Senate in 2010 before dropping out two days before the primary; and activist Tio Hardiman, who in August announced plans to challenge Congressman Bobby Rush before later setting his sights on Brown.
Brown is campaigning for a fifth term in office, spending thousands of dollars on fundraisers, where her opponents claim her employees are being urged to contribute.
Brown has a history of putting the arm on employees. Five years ago, CBS 2 reported they were forced to pay for the privilege of wearing jeans at the office on Fridays, with the money going to a mysterious fund Brown herself controlled.
The “Jeans Days” story was just the first in a number of controversies that have dogged Brown, but until now they haven’t drawn the scrutiny of the feds.