‘He’s remarkable. You have to meet him,” the political operative told me last summer.
The caller was pushing a candidate in his first run for office. A young man who was raised by a hard-working single mother in gritty Austin on Chicago’s West Side, graduated from Fenwick High School, followed with a bachelor’s with honors from Princeton University, then on to the University of Chicago Law School. He’s now a litigation attorney with the powerhouse firm Jenner & Block.
Back in Austin, he does pro bono work for the NAACP, mentors children in foster care, sits on several non-profit boards, and is a commissioner of the Illinois Medical District. At 27.
Politically, what’s even more remarkable: Blake Sercye, candidate for the Cook County Board, has united two abiding foes — Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
Last month, Chicago’s two most powerful politicians showed up at a downtown meeting room to endorse Sercye, who is running for the county’s first district in the March 18 Democratic Primary.
Preckwinkle and Emanuel are a don’t-invite-’em item. Their styles clash. Preckwinkle has been pointedly critical of the mayor. Vocal Emanuel critics like the Chicago Teachers Union are beseeching Preckwinkle to take him on in the 2015 mayoral election.
Now, they are passionately pitching Sercye.
Said Preckwinkle: “He’s a man of integrity, he’s committed to reform and he cares deeply about improving the community where he was born and raised and lives today.”
“I couldn’t agree more with Toni Preckwinkle,” Emanuel declared. “Blake is the right guy, the right individual, at the right moment, to bring the right type of reform to county government.”
Each have committed to giving or raising more than $50,000 for Sercye.
The heavy hitters rarely go out of their way for a down-ballot race. Most voters, unfortunately, don’t even know who their county commissioner is.
There is something else behind all that love — an ex-con is on the ballot. Former West Side Ald. Isaac “Ike” Carothers, who went to prison in 2010 for bribery and tax fraud, is running for the seat.
Other contenders in the race include Richard Boykin, an attorney and former chief of staff to U.S. Rep. Danny K. Davis, businessman Ronald Lawless and community activitist Brenda Smith. The district spans Chicago’s West Side, Broadview, Bellwood, Maywood and Oak Park.
Preckwinkle was characteristically blunt. She believes in second chances, but “I also believe that abusing trust, the public trust, taking bribes and misusing tax dollars should disqualify you from holding elective office again.”
In an obscure, five-way race in a low-turnout primary, Carothers’ name recognition could prevail.
I have been watching Sercye. He’s the real deal, a bright political light.
He wants to help ensure he won’t be a remarkable exception. His older brother, who was severely learning disabled, died of a blood clot at the age of 22. A 15-year-old cousin was shot to death while playing basketball in an alley.
Sercye is wise beyond his years. “I’m young, but I’m not new,” he tells me.
He wants to bring fresh energy to the county’s gnarly challenges: A broken criminal justice system, ailing health care system, and pernicious crime.
Sercye is a first chance worth taking.