State Rep. Emanuel “Chris” Welch (D-7th), whose district includes a part of River Forest, may be facing a challenger in next year’s Democratic primary.
Chris Harris, a former Forest Park village commissioner who ran unsuccessfully for mayor in April, emailed a statement to supporters on Nov. 19 notifying them that he intends to run and soliciting their help with circulating nominating petitions.
“A man with a resume as destructive as Representative Chris Welch’s should not run unopposed and after witnessing a recent D209 meeting where he was pulling the strings behind the curtain and controlling votes he shouldn’t — the decision was made to challenge him,” Harris wrote.
Harris was referring to votes recently taken by the District 209 Board of Education to rescind the contract of a law firm the board had recently hired and not to rehire popular Proviso East men’s basketball coach Donnie Boyce.
Both board actions were decided by 4 to 3 votes. Board President Theresa Kelly and new board members Claudia Medina and Ned Wagner — who campaigned on the same slate during the recent April elections — voted against the moves, while Daniel Adams, Theresa McKelvey, Brian Cross and Board Vice President Kevin McDermott voted for them.
Kelly has described the board’s decisions not to rehire Boyce and to rescind the hiring of the new legal counsel as politically motivated, the work of “local politicians” —namely Welch, a former D209 board president, and Cook County Recorder of Deeds Karen Yarbrough — bent on enacting retribution.
Kelly, Medina and Wagner — the latter two political novices at the time of the election — ran on a slate called Proviso Together. They ran against a ticket comprising former D209 board member Francine Harrell, local youth pastor Theodore Matthews and ShawnTe Raines-Welch, who is the wife of the Chris Welch.
Proviso Together won every precinct in Forest Park and Westchester, garnering between 66 percent and 87 percent of the vote in those areas.
Supporters of Proviso Together saw the slate’s overwhelming election victory a rebuke to what they perceived to be the Welch-dominated status quo and an opportunity at reform.
According to sources, Harris is looking to ride the wave of enthusiasm created by that school board race and to benefit from what could be a burgeoning political coalition in Proviso Township.
“Do know, this wasn’t just knee-jerk reaction, there have been people looking to find a candidate for some time and I had been considering it but, of course, many factors go into a decision like this,” wrote Harris, who couldn’t be reached for comment. “We kept thinking someone would surface to run but no names have come up.”
The email notes that Harris is planning on hosting two pizza gatherings this month to rouse support for his candidacy. Nominating petitions must be filed with the Cook County Clerk’s Office by Nov. 30.