Mar 14, 2024 - Politics

Inside the fight for Cook County's Circuit Court clerk

two women

Cook County Circuit Court Clerk Iris Y. Martinez (left) and her primary challenger MWRD commissioner Mariyana Spyropoulos. Photos: Courtesy of their official offices

A longtime Cook County politician is battling to unseat the Circuit Court clerk.

Why it matters: The clerk oversees and archives records for the second-largest court system in the nation.

State of play: Incumbent Iris Y. Martinez is facing a challenge from longtime Metropolitan Water Reclamation District commissioner Mariyana Spyropoulos, who has scored the endorsement of the Cook County Democratic Party and Board of Commissioners president Toni Preckwinkle.

Context: Martinez, who says her lack of endorsement shows her independence, took over the office in 2020 following longtime controversial clerk Dorothy Brown. More than 15 years prior, she became Illinois' first Latina state senator, championing reproductive and LGBTQ rights.

  • Under Martinez, the Clerk's Office started finally digitizing court records. During her first term, she also expanded expungement programs and launched services for victims of domestic violence.

Meanwhile, Spyropoulos, a former Cook County prosecutor and private practice attorney, has served as a MWRD commissioner for 13 years. She's pushed for independent oversight and more public transparency within the agency.

Follow the money: Both candidates have faced criticism for campaign contributions. A Tribune investigation raised concerns late last year about Martinez accepting $45,000 worth of campaign donations from her employees. Martinez's campaign says the clerk has never given raises or promotions to employees "conditioned on 'pay to play' politics."

  • Meanwhile, Spyropoulos has accepted $140,000 in contributions since 2010 from companies that have done business with the board, a Tribune analysis found. Spyropoulos says the donations haven't influenced her work. She also pledged to end employee campaign donations and appoint an independent watchdog for the office, which has had a history of patronage issues.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to clarify criticisms both candidates have faced over campaign contributions.

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