By Dan Haley
The essential remaking of Cook County government has been underway for three years already. And during this start of the Toni Preckwinkle era of reform and reinvention, residents of the 1st District have been on the sidelines with our do-nothing holdover of a commissioner from the county's decades of bloat and patronage and governance, so actively bad it was insulting both to the county's poor who used the services and the county's middle class which was being robbed with every tax collection cycle.
Now 1st District constituents from the West Side out through Oak Park, Forest Park and into Proviso Township, have the opportunity in the March 18 Democratic Primary to elect a new commissioner to play a progressive role in fixing an expensive layer of government that serves critical needs in health care, criminal justice and the forest preserves.
There are five candidates in this race. Three are serious contenders. Two are taking up space and possibly slicing vote counts in critical ways. We'll start there:
Brenda Smith is currently an aide to the aforementioned Commissioner Earlean Collins. She was previously an aide to another candidate in this race, Ike Carothers. Neither affiliation is an attribute. Beyond that when Smith does rarely turn out to campaign, she mouths the usual mush about loving the district and helping people. Enough.
Ron Lawless is a perennial candidate. We like Ron. But we don't take him seriously.
Of the three remaining candidates one is Carothers, a former Chicago alderman from Austin, who was convicted of accepting bribes and committing fraud. He admits doing wrong and he has served time in prison. While everyone deserves a second chance in life, corrupt public officials do not deserve a second chance at public office. It's that plain.
Carothers is a talented, old-school politician who makes things happen. We find him a humbler and more interesting person than the alderman with the bluster and bravado of days past. We wish him the best and look forward to the contributions he will make to community life outside of government.
This leaves us with two candidates: Blake Sercye and Richard Boykin. These are bright, determined men with political skills and connections who will make our district a force in the continuing overhaul of county government.
But they are not interchangeable and we enthusiastically choose Blake Sercye.
Sercye's youth and idealism, matched with political pragmatism and a true progressive agenda, make him by far the best choice. His life story — growing up in Austin with a single mom and lifting himself through Fenwick, Princeton and the law school at the University of Chicago — is remarkable. But it is only important to this campaign because he chose to remain in Austin, to actively volunteer and advocate for Westsiders.
He also understands this moment's opportunity to win this office and to use it to connect the West Side, Oak Park and Proviso in ways that pure political math has not demanded. We are stronger together and Sercye grasps that.
In other circumstances, Richard Boykin would be a worthy choice. He has political experience and connection owing to his experience as a top aide to Cong. Danny Davis (D-7th).
What we don't see is the on-the-ground connection to the district that Sercye offers. Boykin offers D.C. connects that are less immediately valuable and too frequently lead back to a lobbying career that leaves us with some sense of disquiet.
We are admirers of Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, and we are influenced by her strong endorsement of Blake Sercye.
And so we add our own strong endorsement.