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Cook County Assessor Joe Berrios and daughter face election challenges

Updated: March 20, 2012 1:13AM

The Father-and-daughter team of Cook County Assessor Joe Berrios and State Rep. Toni Berrios is facing a double-barrel election challenge in Tuesday’s Democratic primary election.

In addition to serving as assessor, Joe Berrios chairs the Cook County Democratic Party. Librarian Alonzo Zaragoza, a former state chair of the Independent Voters of Illinois-Independent Precinct Organization, is challenging Berrios for his 31st Ward Democratic Committeeman’s seat.

Former web journalist Will Guzzardi is running against Toni Berrios for her state house seat.

Some 31 precincts are in both the ward and the state house district so father and daughter are running something of a joint defense campaign, said their spokesman Manuel Galvan. He said neither would be available for comment Sunday.

Zaragoza and Guzzardi are likewise pooling resources and running something of a joint campaign to dent the Berrios dynasty.

Part of their criticism of the Berrioses is that Joe Berrios has used his elected offices as a friends-and-family plan, hiring his son Joey at the Cook County Board of Review then bringing him over to the Assessor’s office when Berrios won that office in 2010.

Berrios also hired his sister Carmen at the Assessor’s office and promoted and gave a $10,000 raise to his daughter who was already working there — not Toni; Vanessa.

Zaragoza ran a tongue-in-cheek Valentines Day ad in the Sun-Times: “Uncle Joe, Thank you for the jobs and promotions. We couldn’t have gotten them without you. With love, the Berrios family.”

Joe Berrios, an unapologetic old-school politician, said he “chuckled” when he saw the ad. Zaragoza also criticizes Berrios for being a lobbyist for video poker and the town of Cicero — posts Galvan noted Berrios quit when he became assessor.

But Zaragoza’s main argument against Berrios is that he does not do enough as party committeemen in the ward to get voters registered and voting.

“We have 55,000 people in the ward and last year only 6,490 voted,” Zaragoza said. “This primary we’re expecting 3,200 people to come out to vote. That’s 3,000 votes for Barack Obama. We should have at least 10,000 voters in this ward. That’s the job of the ward committeeman to get out the vote.”

Both Berrioses have more campaign funds at their disposal than their opponents.

Speaker of the House and State Democratic Party Chairman Mike Madigan has been sending plenty of workers, money and resources to help Rep. Toni Berrios’ campaign.

Just about all the elected officials have endorsed the Berrioses.

The Independent Voters of Illinois-Independent Precinct Organization has endorsed the challengers.

The Chicago Teachers Union and Ald. Scott Waugespack (32nd) have endorsed Guzzardi.

“For the first time, Toni has been walking door-to-door, having to defend choices she’s made over the past few years,” Waugespack said.

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