By Dan Haley
On the final day, in what I had to hope was the final mailing, the kinder, gentler Blake Sercye returned to my mailbox. At least on the front and back of the four-page mailer it was the smiling young man with the good story — raised in Austin by a single mom, still in Austin, Fenwick, Princeton, U of C law school, pro bono legal work, progressive agenda for the county board.
Now the inside pages of the flyer were all about Corporate Lobbyist Richard Boykin. Did you know he actively wants people to get cancer? People who had already endured Hurricane Katrina!
Yes, I voted for Sercye. But as I write this, early Tuesday morning, before the polls open, I can tell you that I will cast that vote later today with less enthusiasm than I expected when I first met this young man over coffee at George's six months ago.
He impressed me with his passion for the West Side, with his smarts about county policies on health care and the warped justice system, his determination to represent all of the 1st District. He won me over with his warmth and his story about coming up in Austin against considerable odds and then, when he had earned many options, his choice to stay in place.
I get it that when an elective office in these parts comes open after 15 years of incumbency, when the retiring incumbent holds little sway in choosing a replacement, you can count on a rush of candidates who badly want to be elected.
And over the last three weeks, it has felt as if Blake Sercye wanted too badly to be elected. In a tough field of five candidates I understand one has to both promote oneself and work to separate oneself from key opponents. Sercye rightly saw Boykin as the person he had to get past and with an infusion of cash and endorsements — he got both from Toni and Rahm — he and his team turned hard and, I think in tone and sheer weight of attack, unfairly on Boykin.
I've got my doubts, too, about Richard Boykin and his wide experience as a lawyer and lobbyist. It is what disqualified him in my book because in other ways he is a strong candidate. That Sercye would mine this Boykin vulnerability is fine and smart politics. That he would — via a torrent of mailers — submerge his own virtues so fully to attack Boykin with rhetoric and images so harsh, raises doubts for me about Sercye.
These were the sort of attack ads we've all gotten inured to at the state and federal level, though they've poisoned the political well pretty thoroughly. At this local level though, they carried a harshness and destructiveness that feels out of place.
Blake Sercye came to the Journal's endorsement interview just a few days after being anointed and bequeathed by Toni and Rahm. With an extra $100K and some Rahm political advisers in the background, I remember asking Sercye what would change in his campaign. His answer was, "We're going to be blowing up people's mailboxes."
I thought that was a reference to sheer volume of mailings.
If Blake Sercye was elected yesterday, and even if he wasn't, he is going to have to do some serious thinking about the path he took in the final three weeks of this campaign.
Passion for her township: Sat down last week with Carla Sloan, elected a year back as the supervisor of River Forest Township. Don't know her, never met her during the campaign as the race was unopposed and River Forest Township has traditionally been the definition of sleepy.
Now things aren't so sleepy as River Forest's village leaders have doubled down with State Rep. Chris Welch in planning ways to force the elimination of township government and the transfer of its important functions to village hall.
But Sloan is passionate about township government, its unique place in serving "quiet populations" of youth, seniors, those with mental illness and those far down on their luck. It will be interesting to see how this debate plays out.
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