Cook County Board Commissioner Richard Boykin said on Tuesday that he is considering challenging Toni Preckwinkle in next year’s election for board president.
“We’re taking a serious look at it,” Boykin said in a phone interview with the Chicago Sun-Times. “We’re going to talk with people throughout Cook County, and if the people want me, they will let me know that.”
The first-term commissioner said Preckwinkle’s handling of the sweetened beverage tax and the ensuing backlash prompted him to consider running.
“It was a bad tax from its inception. We ought to repeal it right away,” he said. “She has continued to make mistake after mistake on this tax. It was her decision to sue [the Illinois Retail Merchants Association].
“It was a vindictive action carried out on the taxpayers’ credit card. It was as if she was the queen and she made an edict. It borders on abuse of power,” he said.
Preckwinkle on Tuesday dropped the $17 million suit against the merchants who had sued the county in an effort to halt the tax on sugary drinks. Representatives for Preckwinkle did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
“But the damage is done,” Boykin said. “The message is, ‘Look out, we will come after you if you speak up.'”
He called on Preckwinkle to rescind layoff notices that were sent to more than 300 employees after the tax initially was halted. Boykin has claimed the county can avoid job cuts by slashing 1,500 vacant positions and putting a freeze on new hires.
“She manufactured this crisis,” he said.
Boykin called the county’s tax system “rigged against working-class people” and criticized Preckwinkle’s decision to bring in a third-party consultant to review the county’s property tax assessment system.
“That’s putting a Band-Aid on a shotgun wound. That’s not real leadership,” he said.
Boykin said he’ll announce his decision in September. He hasn’t yet formed an exploratory committee. He had about $81,500 in his campaign fund at the end of June, and owes himself $140,500, according to the Illinois Board of Elections.
Boykin, a partner at Barnes & Thornburg LLP, was elected commissioner of the county’s First District in 2014 and previously worked for 10 years as U.S. Rep. Danny Davis’ chief of staff. He also worked for Rep. Bobby Rush and former Sen. Carol Moseley Braun.