Cook County Commissioner Richard Boykin (1st) — whose district represents a significant swath of the West Side, including all or parts of Austin, North Lawndale and West Garfield Park — has taken another step toward running against Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle.
The commissioner's team is now circulating petitions to gather the necessary signatures. Boykin, who has been seriously considering a possible run for that position for several weeks, confirmed this was the case over the phone on Monday.
Boykin said his team is circulating petitions for both board president and his own 1st District commission seat, for which the term expires next year.
"We're circulating both sets — one for the first district and one for board president," Boykin said. "We'll make a decision by the end of September. We're still on track to do that, but I wanted to be prepared for either case."
Boykin, who has been a vocal critic of numerous Preckwinkle-led initiatives — most notably the unpopular penny per ounce sweetened beverage tax — said he's been encouraged by several polls indicating the board president's political weakness.
However, he's still looking for a third-party poll showing how he'd perform in a head-to-head matchup with the incumbent board president.
According to a We Ask America poll, released earlier this month, 68 percent of the poll's 900-plus respondents disapprove of Preckwinkle's performance on the job, and 75 percent said they probably won't vote for her next year.
"We're seriously considering a run and we just want to be ready, process-wise, just in case we decide to do it," Boykin said. "There are a number of things that need to come into focus in the coming weeks for us to do it."
Boykin said, when it comes to the beverage tax, "We all ought to be concerned less about politics than about the skyrocketing cost of living driving residents out of the county."
The first-term commissioner also addressed a Chicago Sun-Times report that quotes an adviser to former New York City mayor and billionaire businessman Michael Bloomberg, whom the adviser said is ready to spend "whatever it takes" to support politicians who voted for the beverage tax.
In 2012 while he was mayor, Bloomberg passed a measure that would "limit the sales of sugary drinks larger than 16 ounces," according to a New York Times report. The measure, however, was struck down two years later by the New York State Court of Appeals.
Last month, Bloomberg's office announced that it was spending $2 million to purchase ads defending Cook County's sugary beverage tax.
"Residents care less about those ads than what they can afford at the grocery store," Boykin said. "This is a pocketbook issue. We're sending a lot of money into other counties and the state of Indiana, where people are going to buy their sweetened beverages."
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