Cook County Dems stay neutral in Illinois Senate primary

Rep. Tammy DuckworthLadda (Tammy) Tammy DuckworthMcConnell focuses on confirming judicial nominees with COVID-19 talks stalled Biden courts veterans amid fallout from Trump military controversies John Fogerty: 'Confounding' that Trump campaign played 'Fortunate Son' at rally MORE (D-Ill.) failed to win the endorsement Wednesday of Cook County Democratics for the Senate race against Republican incumbent Mark KirkMark Steven KirkLiberal veterans group urges Biden to name Duckworth VP On the Trail: Senate GOP hopefuls tie themselves to Trump Biden campaign releases video to explain 'what really happened in Ukraine' MORE, despite having the backing of the national Democratic establishement.

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The county party, which represents the city of Chicago and much of its suburbs, opted instead not to endorse either Duckworth or Andrea Zopp, a former Chicago Urban League president.

The two are the main candidates vying for the right to take on Kirk in what’s expected to be one of the tightest Senate elections of the 2016 cycle.

Zopp praised the decision in an emailed statement to her supporters, calling it “big news” and “our first major victory.” Her campaign has criticized the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee for backing Duckworth, accusing the group of not taking into account the African-American community. 

“I am grateful to the leaders of the Cook County Democratic Party for giving me the opportunity to present our campaign and I appreciate their faith in the democratic process,” she wrote.

“As I celebrate this milestone, I know that there is still more work to be done to ensure that every voter and every voice from Chicago to Carbondale is represented in this election.”

Kaitlin Fahey, Duckworth’s campaign manager, countered Zopp’s characterization in a statement that referred to the decision as “expected.” 

“With so many candidates from the City of Chicago asking to be slated today, this was the expected result,” she said. 

“We look forward to continuing to work to earn the votes of people all across Illinois who are tired of being embarrassed by Senator Kirk’s antics and rhetoric, and who are looking for a Senator who will put Illinois families and small businesses first.”

Zopp’s previous position with the Urban League based her in Chicago. Duckworth represents Illinois’s 8th Congressional District, which includes a portion of Cook County, but a significant part of her district lies outside that county.

Still, the Chicago Sun-Times called the local party's decision "a bit of a surprise," and Chicago's NBC affiliate said Zopp "gained a victory" with the decision.

Duckworth led Zopp by a margin of 59 percent to 10 percent in a July Public Policy Polling poll and was the only candidate polled who topped Kirk.

The 50 committee members from Cook County met Wednesday to decide whether to endorse county-wide candidates for its upcoming primary election slate. The committee members’ votes are weighted based on last year’s Democratic primary turnout, so the decision not to endorse means a majority of those votes couldn’t agree on one candidate.

“I can’t speak to the reasoning for why it happened, but I can say that there were five candidates who appeared before us, so I know that several of those candidates had significant support,” Jacob Kaplan, the executive director of the Cook County Democrats, told The Hill. 

Three other candidates are also running for the primary, but Duckworth and Zopp are seen as the main candidates.