Dorothy Brown

CORRECTS TO COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT CLERK, NOT COURT CLERK IN SECOND SENTENCE - FILE - This Jan. 11, 2010 file photo shows Cook County Circuit Court Clerk Dorothy Brown in Chicago. The Cook County Democratic Party has declined to endorse the four-term county circuit court clerk for re-election amid reports of a federal investigation. On Friday Oct. 23, 2015, party leaders withdrew their support after Brown asked them to continue backing her in the March 15, 2016 primary. Brown has downplayed the investigation, saying such probes are not unusual. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green, File)

The Cook County Democratic Party has withdrawn its endorsement of Dorothy Brown, the longtime clerk of the Cook County Circuit Court, for re-election in the March primary. 

Brown, who grew up picking cotton in Louisiana, according to her official bio, was elected clerk of the Circuit Court in 2000 and has been re-elected three times by overwhelming majorities. 

However, the seizure of her cell phone by a federal agent at her home Oct. 15 precipitated the party’s action at an Oct. 23 meeting, despite her not having been officially accused of any crimes, said Manuel Galvan, Cook County Democratic Party spokesman. During the same meeting, the party voted to shift its endorsement to Alderman Michelle Harris (8th Ward) for Circuit Court Clerk.

“The duty of the party is to carry their wards and townships for the Democratic ticket,” said Galvan. “There was a concern that if Dorothy stayed on the ticket, there would be perhaps additional news about an investigation concerning her and because of the time limit, they would be in a situation where she was on the ballot and there’s nothing [the party] could do. Her situation would bring down the whole ballot.”

According to Galvan, a two-day session was held in August at which all of the candidates for clerk of the court spoke to party leaders about why they should receive the party’s endorsement. Galvan said the party narrowly voted to endorse Brown. 

In one-on-one meetings prior to the two-day session, Brown was asked by committeemen if she was involved in an investigation. She denied all allegations. 

Galvan said the confiscation of Brown’s cell phone and stories written about her in the media made it clear she was involved in an investigation of an allegedly corrupt land deal.

As of press time, Dorothy Brown could not be reached for comment.

Galvan said the primary election is in March, but anybody wishing to be on the ballot must file petition signatures by Nov. 24. 

“If the Democratic Party is going to reconsider its endorsement of Clerk Brown, they needed to do it before the petition was final,” Galvan said. “Otherwise the petition would be submitted, and she would be on the ballot.”

Galvan said the party’s executive committee, composed of 80 members, met Oct. 21 and determined to resolve the issue of whether to withdraw their endorsement. 

During the full committee meeting, Brown was asked to speak about remaining on the ballot with their endorsement. The committee then went into a private session and approved a motion to rescind her endorsement for candidacy.

Several candidates seeking the party’s endorsement for clerk were then asked why they should be endorsed, after which the committee, in another private session, decided to endorse Harris. 

Steve Brown (no relation to Dorothy Brown), press secretary for Rep. Michael Madigan, Speaker of the Illinois House of Representatives and the Cook County Democratic Party committeeman from the 13th Ward, said Madigan supports the Democratic Party’s decision against endorsing Dorothy Brown.

“He will support the recommendations of the committee,” Steve Brown said.

Jacob Meister, an attorney and candidate for the Clerk of the Circuit Court, said he believes Dorothy Brown has “completely failed to modernize the office.” 

“From the beginning,  [the party] shouldn’t have endorsed her in the first instance,” Meister said. “The party is well aware of the shortcomings of that office, so obviously I think taking back the endorsement was the right thing to do.”

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