Karen Yarbrough

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Karen Yarbrough

b. August 22, 1950

Cook County, Recorder of Deeds (2012-)
Illinois, State Representative (2001-2012)
Illinois, 5th District State Central Committeewoman (2010-)
Cook County, Proviso Township Democratic Committeeman (2006-)

Proviso Township Map

A native of the West Cook suburbs, Yarbrough started her career working in her father's insurance brokerage, Hathaway Insurance Agency. As a small local insurance agent Yarbrough built a wide network of relationships and gradually became involved in Maywood village and Proviso Township politics, participating in an independent group that slated candidates for township and Maywood village board. Proviso Township, which has one of Cook County's largest African-American voting populations, and the second largest vote total in the county, is an important tentpole of Illinois Democratic politics. Ultimately, every Cook County-wide and every Democratic statewide candidate must make a stop in Proviso.

For most of the 1990's the leader of Proviso Township politics, and the group opposing Yarbrough's coalition, was led by Eugene Moore, who supported village mayors and state legislative candidates throughout Proviso Township. Although Yarbrough and her group had been waging a war for village and township board slots with Moore for years, in 1998, Yarbrough challenged Moore directly for state representative and lost. But then, when Moore moved to Cook County Recorder of Deeds in 2000, Yarbrough ran for his state rep spot, and began a slow process of steadily eating his lunch, until by 2006, she held every spot he had previously earned (including Recorder of Deeds), making her the West Cook top dog.

While Yarbrough has largely managed to rid her office of the scandals of her predecessor (it is still under Shakman oversight), the Recorder's Office remains a generally unheralded office. In November 2016, a binding county-wide ballot initiative passed that directed the county to combine the Recorder of Deeds and County Clerk's Office at the end of the Recorder's current term, in 2020. Yarbrough, deciding she'd rather risk an election than fading out of the picture in 2020, announced her plans to run for County Clerk in 2018. Then a few weeks later, incumbent Clerk David Orr announced he was retiring. Yarbrough was easily slated by the Cook County Democrats.

Yarbrough has not been shy about her desire to obtain higher office, in particular her desire to succeed Jesse White as Secretary of State.


  • Chicago State University, B.A.
  • Northeastern Illinois University, M.A., Inner City Studies

Important Political Events

  • 1998, Defeated for State Representative by incumbent Eugene Moore
  • 2000, Elected State Representative, defeating Wanda Sharp
  • 2002, Defeated for Proviso Township Democratic Committeeman by Eugene Moore
  • 2005, Husband Henderson Yarbrough Elected Mayor of Maywood
  • 2006, Elected Proviso Township Democratic Committeeman, defeating incumbent Eugene Moore
  • 2010, Elected 7th District State Central Committeewoman, defeating Darlena Williams-Burnett
  • 2012, Elected Cook County Recorder of Deeds, defeating incumbent Eugene Moore
  • 2016, Reelected Cook County Recorder of Deeds
  • 2016, Passage of county-wide ballot initiative requires Recorder of Deeds' office to be folded into County Clerk's office