The March 15 Democratic primary for clerk of the circuit court of Cook County has two elected officials, who happen to be neighbors, running against each other.
Incumbent Dorothy Brown is seeking her fifth term but Chicago Alderman Michelle Harris (8th), who lives two blocks from Brown on the city’s South Side, has other ideas for the office, and so does challengers, Shirley Coleman and Jacob Meister.
But Brown said she is the best choice to run an office that employs 1,600 people and has a $100 million budget.
“Given what’s been happening in Chicago the last several months especially with the Laquan McDonald shooting, people should look at that and say ‘we need a clerk of the Circuit Court that will protect the records for all citizens of Cook County.’ And that person is me,” Brown explained.
“And during my tenure there’s never been any kind of inkling that I have not provided the records to everyone. People need to know that the clerk office maintains all court records.”
Late last year Brown suffered a blow to her re-election bid when the Cook County Democratic Party withdrew its endorsement to her and now supports Harris.
But despite the Party’s withdrawal Brown still managed to turn in thousands of nominating petitions, according to Board of Elections officials, and easily surpassed her opponents.
“While I was disappointed in the Party’s decision I have moved on and have since picked up other endorsements from community leaders,” she said.
She added that those who know her best would describe her as “strong, trust-worthy and dependable yet humble.”
Shortly after the New Year U.S. Rep. Danny K. Davis (D-IL), Alderman Jason Ervin (28th) and other West Side leaders including a host of suburban mayors endorsed Brown and said they did so because of her record of achievements.
And Brown recently opened another campaign office on the West Side at 3700 W. Chicago Ave. an area where Ervin said her support has grown among voters.
“I know Clerk Brown to be a public servant who is foremost interested in empowering communities and increasing access to justice for all citizens,” said Ervin. “Her record of improvements to the clerk’s office is unmatched. I proudly endorse Dorothy Brown’s re-election.”
Davis said anyone looking for a good candidate to vote for they should look no further than Brown.
“I want to urge everybody else to vote for Dorothy Brown to be returned as Clerk of the Circuit Court of Cook County,” said Davis. “I think Dorothy Brown has done an outstanding job as clerk. I am appreciative of the creative way in which she has used her office to help deal with issues of mass incarceration.”
Winning support from Davis means a lot to Brown.
“I am honored to receive this endorsement from Congressman Davis, because he is a man of great integrity who stands for the people and understands the dedication it takes to maintain and run a successful court clerk’s office,” said Brown.
As the county’s official record keeper Brown’s office is responsible for recording child support payments and processing child support motions.
“A lot of non-custodial parents, namely fathers, have been unable to have their day in court when seeking to raise concerns they may have because they are unable to pay a filing fee,” Brown said. “But for those parents unable to pay they could request a fee waiver with my office and a judge would then decide if the fee should be waived. Once a person tells us they cannot pay the fee we automatically tell them about the fee waiver.”
Non-custodial parents, who do not have their child support deducted from their paychecks, such as self-employed parents, can make payments at her office.
Since taking office Brown said she has implemented an electronic filing system; built a mobile app that places court information conveniently on a user’s mobile device; managed the full-scale scanning and electronic storing of almost 200 million digital images of court documents; and installed interactive digital access terminals throughout the clerk’s office for public use to view and print imaged court documents.
Additionally, Brown said she initiated an online traffic ticket payment service; an unclaimed child support search; online orders of protection service; and the Mortgage Foreclosure Surplus Search program that she said helps qualifying people learn about and recover cash surpluses from property lost to foreclosure.
The 62 year-old Louisiana-native earned a bachelor’s in Accounting from Southern University, a master’s in Business Administration from DePaul University, a doctorate from Chicago-Kent College of Law, and she is also a certified public accountant.
Before entering politics Brown was a general auditor for the Chicago Transit Authority and previously ran for City Treasurer, Mayor of Chicago and president of the Cook County Board of Commissioners.
The wife and mother of one adult daughter said when she is not working for Cook County residents she enjoys spending quality time with her husband, watching movies and volunteering at her South Side church.
In November on ‘Black Friday’ (the day after Thanksgiving) Brown said she was among the hundreds of protesters marching on Michigan Avenue as part of the Black Lives Matter movement.
“If we want to have a say in who will be the next Chicago police superintendent and who will be our elected leaders, we have to let our voices be heard and get our young people to vote,” added Brown.
One thing Brown, a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc., said people might not know about her is that she played on her high school basketball team.
“I was the captain of the basketball team in my senior year and I played forward,” recalled Brown, a Chicago Bulls fan.