Oak Park Dems strongly endorse Sercye in 1st District primary

Harmon cites Preckwinkle endorsement as critical

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By Bob Skolnik

Contributing Reporter

A great week for 1st District Cook County Board candidate Blake Sercye continued Saturday as Sercye easily won the endorsement of the Democratic Party of Oak Park (DPOP) at a hastily called endorsement session held Saturday morning at DPOP headquarters. The endorsement capped off a big week for the 27 year old Sercye that has made him a strong contender in the March 18 Democratic primary race.

Earlier in the week Sercye was endorsed by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle who each committed to contributing or raising just over $50,000 to the Sercye campaign. On the very same day Wednesday Journal reported candidate Richard Boykin, who had been considered by many the favorite in the race, had taken multiple homestead property tax exemptions and that Boykin had supported Republican Mark Kirk in the 2010 Illinois Senate race.

Two of the five candidates in the 1st District race, Sercye and Oak Park resident Ron Lawless, appeared at the DPOP endorsement session held in the cramped community room at DPOP headquarters. Sercye and Lawless each spoke for about five minutes to about 30 DPOP members.

Boykin, a lawyer/lobbyist and a former chief of staff to Congressman Danny Davis, former 29th ward alderman Isaac "Ike" Carothers, and Brenda Smith did not show up for the endorsement session. State Senator Don Harmon, the Oak Park Township Democratic Committeeman who leads DPOP, said that Boykin and Carothers sent word that they had scheduling conflicts and could not make the endorsement session that was only announced on Thursday.

Just two weeks ago Harmon said that DPOP had decided not to endorse any candidate in the race because there was no consensus among members about which candidate to support.

But after Preckwinkle endorsed Sercye she asked Harmon if DPOP would endorse Sercye. Harmon decided to schedule the endorsement session.

"Toni has had a long standing relationship with the Democratic Party of Oak Park," Harmon said. "She is widely admired by our members and her endorsement speaks volumes."

In the discussion following the candidates' presentations former Oak Park Village President David Pope strongly defended Boykin countering those who had concerns about his multiple tax exemptions.

Pope said it was misleading to say, as Wednesday Journal reported, that Boykin had "claimed" multiple exemptions noting that Boykin only moved in his second Oak Park condominium last summer. Pope said the word claimed is an active verb and did not accurately reflect how Boykin obtained the tax exemptions.


"It's clearly not a case where he is trying to pull the wool over someone's eyes," Pope said. Pope also said that Boykin is separated from his wife and a home in Bolingbrook jointed owned by Boykin and his wife is part of the couple's "comingled assets."

"Richard's wife and son are residing there and nobody else resides there," Pope said.

"But other DPOP members weren't convinced and the motion to endorse Sercye was overwhelmingly approved by a voice vote.

"I'm having a problem with this, this is troublesome to me," said DPOP member Laura Perna referring to Boykin's homestead exemptions.

Other DPOP members were bothered by reports that Boykin's work for the Kirk campaign involved working on a "voter integrity" team which some equate to voter suppression attempts to reduce turnout among African-Americans.

"His campaigning for Kirk was probably more disturbing," said DPOP member Jerry Murray. "I was not impressed because he was the Congressman's chief of staff. I'm not sure if that was a positive or a negative. But the other things were just very disturbing."


Murray said that he was especially bothered by Boykin's work on "voter integrity."

"Those are code words," Murray said.

The DPOP endorsement will bring tangible benefits to Sercye, a third year associate at the law firm of Jenner & Block.

"We will include Blake on our sample ballot when we go door to door to get out the vote," Harmon said after the endorsement. "We will include his campaign literature. If we do a vote reminder, a door hanger or get out the vote phone calls, we'll urge people to vote for him." 


Sercye said that he was thankful for the endorsement.

"I'm thankful for the support we received today from the Democratic Party of Oak Park," Sercye said after receiving the endorsement. "The Democratic Party of Oak Park is one of the strongest Democratic organizations in Cook County and our state."

Lawless, a community activist who ran for the County Board and lost four years ago as a Green Party candidate, was disappointed at not getting more support but said that he appreciated the kind words said about him by Harmon and DPOP co-chair Jerry Delaney. Lawless said that he was in the race to stay and would be soon be putting a large sum of his own money into his campaign.

"It could be up to $50,000," Lawless said. "Then if we need to go more we'll go more."

Lawless said that he thought Preckwinkle's endorsement of Sercye was the key factor in DPOP's endorsement.

"It was hard for me to overcome that based on their relationship, but at the end of the day I've always said endorsements don't win elections, people win elections," Lawless said. "We move forward. People have made a choice. I still say that I'm the independent candidate without any strings attached so it makes me even more motivated on behalf of the people and that's the endorsement that counts the most to me."

Harmon predicted that Sercye would win the March 18 primary.

"I think it's going to be tough campaign, but I think Blake's going to win," Harmon said.

After his big week that propelled him from a long shot to the hot candidate in the race Sercye was also feeling optimistic.

"Our race has picked up momentum at the right time," Sercye said. "We've peaked at the right time."


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Reader Comments

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Posted: February 25th, 2014 2:24 PM

ZOMG! The DEMOCRATIC Party of OP didn't endorse the guy who works for Republicans nor the Independent, and instead endorsed the DEMOCRAT! What a scandal! DEMOCRATS endorsing DEMOCRATS! Hopefully the WJ will put all their resources into getting to the bottom of this!

Bruce Samuels from Oak Park  

Posted: February 25th, 2014 12:37 PM

Dear Mr. Grapes: Fair question. There may have been some folks at the endorsement meeting who were seeking an independent. Ron and I, and several other folks, including the late Ron Chew, attempted to reform the party when the mantle was handed by Phil Rock to Harmon. We were unsuccessful but that doesn't mean that some sympathy did not exist in others.


Posted: February 25th, 2014 12:10 PM

Of course he supported Kirk, he was the better choice. That's the problem there, being force fed questionable candidates and having to vote for them because they have a D after their name vs. being able to use your brain and vote for the person who will do the best job. Too much of the former, not enough of the latter.

Sour Grapes from Bruce Samuels  

Posted: February 25th, 2014 11:02 AM

Mr. Samuels, if Mr. Lawless is as independent as you claim, why was he even there seeking the Dem endorsement? This all sounds like after-the-fact sour grapes.

Bruce Samuels from Oak Park  

Posted: February 25th, 2014 10:28 AM

"Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle who...committed to contributing or raising just over $50,000..." Oh yeah...he's going to be a real independent when his boss funded his campaign. Vote for Ron Lawless.

Bruce Samuels from Oak Park  

Posted: February 25th, 2014 10:18 AM

Rahm's guy? The mayor who is sitting on 1.7 billion dollars of TIF money while closing schools in poor neighborhoods? Endorsed by Oak Park Democrats? The group that endorsed Berrios? Vote for a real independent who doesn't bend to any boss, Ron Lawless.

James Nagle from Oak Park  

Posted: February 25th, 2014 9:09 AM

@ Carol--I think you are right to take a look at all the candidates, but it sure sounds like you are going with the "machine" candidate, not the more independent one. I, for one, am with Sercye because he is that candidate. Mr. Boykin has not been honest with us, engages in voter suppression programs and takes in massive amounts of campaign funds from out of state interests and "consulting" firms. All firm footing for the kind of corruption we can do without.

Bill D  

Posted: February 24th, 2014 3:37 PM

And "Carol from Oak Park"? Really. Independent? Boykin worked for and took his orders from Danny Davis, who is the current 7th District Democratic State committeemen. Independent? Puh-leeze. You can't have it both ways, "delivering" for the 7th district but claiming independence. Boykin lost a township committee vote. That ain't "machine politics," just democracy in action.

Bill D  

Posted: February 24th, 2014 3:32 PM

So, Jerome, if Emanuel is backing Sercye as reward for favors done, why is Preckwinkle backing him? And is her endorsement also a kiss of death on the westside? I have little use for Emanuel, even though I happily voted for his former boss twice (actually three times). I think it's time for a break from the likes of "public servants" like the corrupt Ike Carothers and the useless Earlean Collins. And frankly, any connection to Danny Davis, beloved as he is in many quarters.


Posted: February 24th, 2014 2:24 PM

Rahm endorsement on the west side in 2014? Kiss of death. The only place where an endorsement from Rahm helps you is . . . Oak Park. Think you can win the 1st District seat on the county board with just Oak Park? Ask Ade Onayemi how that strategy went.


Posted: February 24th, 2014 2:17 PM

Blake was Mayor Emanuel's west side political operative when Emanuel ran for Mayor. So this is Emanuel paying him back. Meantime, Boykin still has Proviso, Bellwood, Maywood, etc., and the Congressman behind him. Oak Park won't be enough for Blake. He has to carry other townships too. And it's too late for him to do that. It's impossible for Blake to win, nice as he is. It really is Boykin or Ike. And I know who I'd rather have. Boykin all the way.

Carol from Oak Park  

Posted: February 24th, 2014 2:15 PM

I am just saying that we really need to look more into the candidates. I moved to OP to get away from machine politics and thats exactly what DPOP did on Saturday. Richard is not perfect but has the experience and relationships to deliver for OP. Something that hasn't happened in a long time. I am an independent, and look for independence in candidate, richard is that candidate. As chief of staff, he delivered for the 7th district and he will do that for OP when elected.

OP Resident # 545 from Oak Park  

Posted: February 24th, 2014 2:08 PM

So, Carol, what you're trying to tell us is that all the candidates are dirty in one way, shape, or form? If so, it speaks volumes about the state of the Democrat Party in Cook County. From my own well-placed, trusted sources, Mr Sercye is far & away the most trustworthy, ethical candidate in this race. Maybe he's too young to be tainted by all that will surround him, but we can hope that he keeps his ethics about him while swimming in that cesspool.

Carol from Oak Park  

Posted: February 24th, 2014 1:50 PM

I don't buy the voter integrity stuff, he defended kirk by saying he wasn't racist. I called the boykin campaign and spoke with him. As a minister, he has fought to ensure all had the right to vote. As for DPOP, Harmon and his people scheduled that meeting just to endorse Sercye and not to give anyone a fair chance. Don't be blinded by the facts and spend sometime looking into the race. I don't think Sercye is as CLEAN as people make him out to be. Can't wait for the forum tuesday.

Bill Dwyer  

Posted: February 24th, 2014 9:02 AM

People in politics actually to pay close attention to certain facts, "done." The events leading up to Sercye's endorsement by DPOP were that he was endorsed by the widely respected Preckwinkle (forget about Rahm). Add in that Carothers is a corrupt slime ball and that Boykin is associated with Danny Davis, who has lost some of his former luster in recent years, and it's clear the reason Carothers and Boykins had "previous appointments" and Sercye didn't is because they read the tea leaves.

Done from Oak Park  

Posted: February 24th, 2014 8:45 AM

"State Senator Don Harmon, the Oak Park Township Democratic Committeeman who leads DPOP, said that Boykin and Carothers sent word that they had scheduling conflicts and could not make the endorsement session that was only announced on Thursday." And only the endorsed candidate, Sercye, was able to have a "clear" schedule to attend. How convenient.

Brian Slowiak from Oak Park  

Posted: February 24th, 2014 7:55 AM

'those are code words" Murray said. Since we don't know everything, and on one does, is it possible that Boykin has first hand knowledge of voter fraud and cant persuade his party to do anything about it? So he had to cross the aisle to get something done. If voter integrity is code, then the other side of the spectrum is that in all the elections there is never. ever,not once any voter fraud. Never. The answer is somewhere between those two points of view.

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: February 23rd, 2014 8:14 PM

I met Mr Sercye yesterday. Quality guy - very personable - intelligent -definitely qualified. Dems made a strong selection.

Chris from OP  

Posted: February 23rd, 2014 5:44 PM

""His campaigning for Kirk was probably more disturbing," said DPOP member Jerry Murray." That sums up the lunacy that is DPOP (and OP in general). Forget that he may not live in our district. Forget that he may be cheating the taxpayers. Dear God he supported a moderate Republican!

Fenwick Class of 2002  

Posted: February 23rd, 2014 3:32 PM

Boykin appears at the 2:19 mark of that video

Fenwick Class of 2002  

Posted: February 23rd, 2014 3:30 PM

Doug, here is the link, that has Boykin on video defending Mark Kirk who warned Democrats would try to "jigger" the vote http://abclocal.go.com/wls/story?section=news/politics&id=7714744

OP Resident # 545 from Oak Park  

Posted: February 23rd, 2014 3:02 PM

I'm not at all a fan of Mr. Boykin, but those who equate "voter integrity" efforts with "voter suppression" are simply foolish at best. A county with Cook's long history of ghost voters/dead voters could use a large dose of voter integrity, which in this case means only showing the same ID to vote that you'd need obtain a Link Card, or open a checking account. To call those efforts an attempt to suppress votes is idiotic & unworthy of further discussion.

Doug Kittredge from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: February 23rd, 2014 2:33 PM

Is there any backup confirmation of Richard Boykin working on "voter integrity" programs?

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