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The contest to fill the open Cook County Commissioner seat representing Oak Park, Austin, and the near west suburbs, has become, in effect, a two-person race. Either Richard Boykin or Ike Carothers is going to be our next County Commissioner.
Fortunately for us, one of these two is very highly qualified. Unfortunately, the other is not.
Richard Boykin emerged from a financially poor but culturally and spiritually rich upbringing in Chicago's Englewood neighborhood to attain academic and professional success, with a strong dose of commitment to public service.
Now a successful attorney, Boykin spent nine years as chief of staff to Congressman Danny Davis (D-7th). I first met him in 2005 in that capacity and was impressed by his deep commitment to advancing the collective interests of both Oak Park and our neighboring communities. A year or so later, as he returned from D.C., Boykin made a very conscious decision to settle in Oak Park, attracted by our strong quality of life and our deep commitment to welcoming people of all backgrounds.
Contrary to some other former representatives (and current candidates), who can barely find Oak Park and our near-west suburban neighbors on a map, Boykin has been actively engaged in the life of our community and that of our neighbors. He is deeply committed to building bridges among all of the populations that reside throughout the 1st District (including our neighbors from Austin, Forest Park, Maywood, Bellwood, Broadview, Westchester, and Hillside).
That sort of collaborative instinct and uniting presence has been nonexistent in our 1st District representation for far too long. The big-tent unifying approach helps to explain why Richard Boykin is receiving virtually all of the endorsements in this race and why he has raised more individual campaign donations than all the other candidates put together.
Opposing him is Ike Carothers, who has considerable name recognition in this race, having served more than a decade as alderman (29th Ward) before being arrested and convicted on federal corruption charges. He served more than two years in federal prison but now has returned to try to leverage the name recognition and field organization built up by 50 years of Carothers political domination on the West Side into a seat on the County Board.
Three other candidates are also running but without the name recognition, broad-based support, or financial wherewithal to have any chance of winning. The difficulty in this race is that any vote cast for one of these "alternatives" is essentially a vote for Ike Carothers, in that it draws support away from Richard Boykin as the only legitimate contender who has any chance of stopping Carothers.
Turnout will be the key factor in deciding this contest. Support from enough thoughtful, clear-minded residents here in Oak Park and throughout the district has the potential to dramatically improve the quality of representation that we will receive at the County Board table for many years to come.
I urge you to take the time to cast that thoughtful vote for Richard Boykin on March 18 in this critically important election for 1st District County Commissioner.
David Pope served as Oak Park village president from 2005-2013.