Thursday, March 13, 2014, MAYWOOD || By Michael Romain
Yesterday, at an early morning press conference that doubled as a caffeinated rally, an excited corps of politicians and party organizers gathered at the 17th and Madison headquarters of the Proviso Township Democratic Organization (PTDO) to collectively endorse Richard Boykin for First District Cook County Commissioner.
Mr. Boykin, an attorney, lobbyist and former chief-of-staff for Congressman Danny K. Davis, is running in a hotly contested campaign that has morphed into a three-way race. Last month, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle altered the dynamics of what many local political insiders had perceived as a face-off between Mr. Boykin and former 29th Ward Alderman and convicted felon Isaac “Ike” Carothers by endorsing 27-year-old attorney and Princeton alum Blake Sercye, an Austin native. Ronald Lawless, an education consultant, and Brenda Smith, a staffer for outgoing Commissioner Collins, are also in the race.
Since landing those two major endorsements, Mr. Sercye has also picked up the endorsement of Secretary of State Jesse White. At the time the joint endorsement from the Mayor and Board President was announced, Boykin’s campaign team and political surrogates perceived it as a cynical attempt to bolster Carothers’s chances in the race by splitting the First District’s suburban vote, which Mr. Boykin desperately needs to counter the former alderman’s significant West Side support.
With three of perhaps the biggest names in local, state and even national politics backing his candidacy, Mr. Sercye, a graduate of Fenwick High School in Oak Park, may be shaping up to be a political dark horse when election results are announced on March 18th–one who may pose a greater threat to Mr. Boykin’s prospects than those of Mr. Carothers.
That’s a reality which PTDO Committeewoman Karen Yarbrough seemed to understand well in a gesture of wholehearted support that didn’t come without its terms and conditions. Yesterday morning, her organization framed Mr. Boykin as the candidate of the suburbs, particularly those within Proviso Township.
In an effort to highlight the candidate’s suburban bona fides, former Maywood Mayor Donald Williams recounted his longtime relationship with Mr. Boykin, who once practiced law in an office on the same block as the PTDO headquarters.
“Richard was an attorney practicing in the Village of Maywood. He distinguished himself then, but I had no idea of [the accomplishments he would eventually achieve].”
Mr. Boykin, who is also an ordained minister at Rock of Ages Baptist Church in Maywood, may indeed be the candidate in the race with the deepest connections to Maywood, and thereby, Proviso Township.
But he’s also been under heavy scrutiny for receiving homestead exemptions on properties in two different counties, raising questions about whether or not he’s qualified to run in the First District. He may need to bolster that Maywood past now more than ever.
“Richard Boykin is the only suburban candidate running in this race and we are suburbanites,” Mrs. Yarbrough said. “We want to have a voice in this race.”
Mrs. Yarbrough, the sitting Cook County Recorder of Deeds and wife of former Maywood Mayor Henderson Yarbrough, fully expects the suburban voice to echo rather loudly in the county government chambers if Mr. Boykin is elected.
“I’m just really excited about his candidacy,” the Recorder said. “I have some ideas for ordinances, they’re already written up. We’ve got some unique problems in the suburbs, but I think we’ve got some unique opportunities, too. We sat down with Rich and we said we’d like you to consider moving your office to the suburbs….When you win, we want that office in Proviso Township; right here with us, because this is where your margin of victory is going to be.”
Diane Williams, a member of the Maywood-Melrose Park-Broadview District 89 school board, said she’d like to see the county government become more proactive in suburban education.
“We’re not a resource rich district, so we are looking forward to the time when we can connect with county government,” Ms. Williams said.
State Representative Emanuel “Chris” Welch (D-7th), whose office is in Westchester, within the vicinity of where Mrs. Yarbrough would like to see a Boykins office located, reinforced the Recorder’s main point of emphasis.
“I see one guy whose vote will represent us,” he said. “He will give us a vote on that county board. The person whose been in Proviso regularly, that’s out here for us regularly is Richard Boykin.”
Rep. Welch then humorously addressed another of Mr. Boykin’s biggest political liabilities–his past support of prominent Republican politicians, such as U.S. Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL).
“There’s been a lot of talk about him not being a Democrat, about him helping Republicans. We are democrats first, but when we get elected, we have to work with everybody. You have to reach across the aisle. I have a purple tie on today. Richard has a purple tie on today. That’s very significant. What do you get when you put red and blue together? Purple. That’s working together.”
Mrs. Yarbrough, playing the part of party general, roused her troops by marshaling a point that, if true, may prove decisive on election day. She said that Proviso Township boasts the second largest Democratic vote in Cook County, which may justify the PTDO’s supreme confidence in a Boykin victory.
“I think everybody here today is giving you more than just an endorsement. For these last six days we’re going to get out there and work it and win it. We’re going to make sure you get across that finish line,” said Rep. Welch.
Perhaps feeling a bit smothered by the support of his biggest ally, Mr. Boykin was careful to strike a note of commonality and inclusion–lest Proviso’s proprietary embrace turn away potential voters in other areas of the First District such as Oak Park and Austin. But he didn’t stray from the main theme of the morning–that he is the candidate uniquely positioned to address suburban issues.
“I’ve knocked on thousands of doors and talked to thousands of people–from Chicago all the way through Proviso and what I’ve learned is people want the same thing. They want safe streets. They want to make sure that businesses can grow. They want jobs in the community. They want to feel like they can walk down the street without being gunned down.”
“I live in the suburbs. I’m proud to call Oak Park home. I’m also proud to call Maywood a place where I had a law office because of the urging of Mayor Don Williams and State Rep. Karen Yarbrough. I had a law office right around the corner. When I think about Westchesteer and all of the areas out here, I think about flooding. I’ll work with the Illinois congressional delegation and Army Corps of Engineers to get those resources resolved. I’ll also look for sustainable resources for the County Land Bank. Here in Maywood we have a number of abandoned properties that need to be put back on the market,” said Mr. Boykins.
Other Proviso Township elected officials on hand to endorse Mr. Boykin included: Forest Park Commissioner Rory Hoskins; Maywood Trustees Toni Dorris and Ron Rivers; District 209 school board member Readith Ester; Westchester Mayor Sam Pulia; Proviso Township clerk Tony Williams; and Bellwood Trustee Ronald Nightingale. VFP
Correction: An earlier version of this article misspelled Jesse White’s name. This article has since been emended.