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Preckwinkle endorses Brandon Johnson in Cook County Board’s 1st District race

Cook County Board Democratic Primary Candidates Brandon Johnson, left, and Richard Boykin met with the Sun-Times Editorial Board Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2018. | Rich Hein/Sun-Times

With only four days before the primary, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle has endorsed the rival of first-term, incumbent Commissioner Richard Boykin in a hotly contested race.

The endorsement came last weekend in Oak Park, according to a spokesman for Preckwinkle, but Boykin said he didn’t know about it until Friday, when a constituent brought a Brandon Johnson campaign mailer to his office.

Boykin said the endorsement of Johnson wasn’t a surprise, and it’s Preckwinkle’s way of punishing him for voting to repeal the sweetened beverage tax, of which he was a vocal opponent.

“He’s been her hand-picked puppet since the beginning of the race,” Boykin said. “The endorsement confirms what I already knew: This is all about her wanting to control the 1st District and wanting someone who will vote with her.”

In 2014, Preckwinkle endorsed Blake Sercye, now president of the Illinois Medical District Commission, who ran against Boykin and others for the county’s 1st District seat after Earlean Collins retired.

Preckwinkle’s endorsement follows a contentious budget cycle that resulted in over 300 layoffs, and a primary race that has seen PACs for unions, like the Chicago Federation of Labor and the International Union Of Operating Engineers Local 150, throw their support and money behind Johnson. The federation and Local 150 are among a group of unions holding ownership stakes in the Chicago Sun-Times.

In a statement, Preckwinkle said Johnson has seen firsthand what “happens in communities when schools are not properly funded and the impact of poverty and joblessness.”

“He brings a thorough understanding for the need to protect county services,” the statement read. “[Johnson] will fight for the working families of the 1st District, unlike the incumbent who only protects his Republican friends and lobbying clients.”

Stephanie Gadlin, a spokesperson for Johnson’s campaign, said in a statement that Boykin is “a GOP puppet and a hypocrite.”

“He should have had the courage to run as a Republican and stand on his well-documented record as a corporate lobbyist who shills for firms that have routinely preyed on African-Americans, Latinos and vulnerable people,” Gadlin’s statement on behalf of the Johnson camp read. “People in the 1st District have suffered for four years under his leadership. Enough is enough.”