Laura Washington: Sidelined Boykin a pol with a promise

SHARE Laura Washington: Sidelined Boykin a pol with a promise

Cook County Commissioner Richard Boykin campaigned for a U.S. Senate seat at the Illinois State Fair last month. File photo by Seth Perlman, AP.

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Cook County Commissioner Richard Boykin will not be a candidate but remains deep in campaign mode.

This summer Boykin sent hot signals that he would enter Illinois’ Democratic U.S. Senate primary. He talked big and acted big, but last week Boykin took a big pass.


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“I’d love to do it,” he tells me over coffee at a downtown restaurant.

I have been watching Boykin since last year, when he blasted through a five-way race for the seat, representing Chicago’s West Side and near west suburbs.

Boykin, 47, is a pol with promise. The Oak Park lawyer/lobbyist touts his legislation establishing stiffer penalties for the possession of assault weapons; call for an end to Chicago’s discriminatory stop-and-frisk policy; and push for a county gun violence czar. He boasts that he has a 100 percent attendance and voting record on the county board.

But he got there just nine months ago, and therein lies one of many rubs.

Boykin seemed poised to make a late-breaking run against U.S. Rep. Tammy Duckworth and Andrea Zopp, former CEO of the Chicago Urban League. On his month-long “listening tour” around the state, he met with voters, church and community leaders, and elected officials.

He says, of course, that many were just begging him to run. Those “yes” men and women were voters looking for change.

“One thing that is crystal clear to me is that people are looking for a leader who will stand up for them,” he says. “A lot of people have lost hope. They’ve lost hope in government.”

Yet, the “no” people prevailed. Boykin was way behind on fundraising, he acknowledges. He was accused of being a stalking horse for Duckworth (that’s “lunacy,” he says). He just took office.

“I don’t want the distractions from the work that the people elected me to do,” he says. After all that time “listening,” he could come up with a better line than that.

Instead, he will create a “progressive” political organization, to register and educate voters, propose policy change and back candidates.

Boykin is vague on the details, but promises it will be “people centered.” It is also a handy platform for another possible run.

Boykin is the former chief of staff for U.S. Rep. Danny K. Davis, and is likely positioning himself for Davis’ retirement. Davis, 74, who has served the 7th Congressional District since 1996, just announced he will run for another term, but rumors persist that he will soon hang it up.

A Boykin U.S. senate bid would have siphoned off votes from Zopp; both are African Americans. That voting base, in Chicago and Cook County, is critical for Democrats in the March 2016 primary.

Boykin seems to relish making enemies, as he continues to slam Zopp, Duckworth and much of the Democratic Party establishment.

Little wonder, since he won his county seat despite the opposition of that establishment.

He nods toward the city-county building across the street.

“None of these guys over here supported me when I ran for Cook County commissioner. The mayor was against me, [Cook County Board President Toni] Preckwinkle was against me. All of the aldermen, most of them, were against me. So I marched to the beat of the people, not these guys.”

In Chicago, that is not the typical path for the hyper-ambitious.

Boykin borrowed from a crusty cliché, declaring, “I’m unbought, unbossed and unafraid.”

The campaign continues.


Follow Laura Washington on Twitter: @MediaDervish

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