The number of possible challengers for Illinois’ 7th District House seat is growing, and at least one has already begun raising funds. None have officially declared their candidacies, though. And no one will until Karen Yarbrough, who has firmly held the seat for 12 years, decides she plans to vacate the seat.   

Yarbrough told the Review in July that she is “seeking to be slated” by the Cook County Democratic Party for the office of Cook County Recorder of Deeds in 2012. An endorsement by the organization usually guarantees victory because the county is a Democratic stronghold. A spokeswoman for the organization did not confirm or deny the possibility of Yarbrough being slated, calling it “a rumor.”

Since then, Rory Hoskins, a Forest Park commissioner, announced he was interested in the seat, and Proviso District 209 school board President Chris Welch has entertained the possibility of a second run. Some of the new names that popped up recently include Thomas Gary, an Oak Parker who sits on Triton College’s board of education and Audrey Jaycox, a Maywood trustee.

All made it clear they will not even flirt with the idea of running if Yarbrough plans to run for the seat again.

Jaycox said she is only considering a run, and Gary vaguely hinted that he would only pursue it if the opportunity presented itself in the future.

“I would have no reason to try to run against her, especially since I’m in local government already,” said Jaycox, adding that she has supported Yarbrough in the past by working on one of Yarbrough’s campaigns for state rep.

Jaycox is in her second term as a village trustee. She also heads or belongs to a number of organizations, including the Maywood Chamber of Commerce and a regional chapter of the state’s National Black Caucus, to name a few. 

“I think pretty much that people are interested, but no one has expressed an interest in running against her [Yarbrough],” Jaycox said.

Gary said that, presently, his focus is on Triton and making sure that the community college is an “avenue to improve [one’s] economic situation in life.”

“I still have plenty of stuff to do at Triton,” he said. Gary is in his first term as a trustee and is pursuing a Ph.D. in political science from Northwestern University. He is also a Navy veteran who spent time in Iraq.

Gary was not as direct as Jaycox about his interest in the seat.

“I had been asked [to run] and I’m honored and appreciative that others think of me in this way,” said Gary. “If she moves on, great for her. That means the community will have an interesting discussion about … what are the issues that really matter to us here [and]  who are the people best suited to articulate that and advance that.”

In Forest Park, Commissioner Rory Hoskins has been talked up by the likes of U.S. Rep. Danny Davis (D-7th) and has already held a fundraiser. Last month, the longtime congressman told the Forest Park Review that “for my money right now, Rory has as much viability as any other candidate. … To the extent that he is considering a run, I would consider supporting him.”

Hoskins held his fundraiser last week at DK Bottega, 201 Desplaines Ave., and it was mostly attended by residents, regional supporters and a few elected officials.

“He’s got a vision and a plan, … an idea of what needs to be done and he knows what the building blocks are,” said Cook County Judge Mary Colleen Roberts, who attended the fundraiser. The two were introduced by Yarbrough, Roberts said.  

Like the others, Hoskins will not go after the seat if Yarbrough decides to retain it.

“If she’s going to run, there’s no way I’m going to run,” Hoskins said. But if she doesn’t, he is preparing for the possibility of a run. That preparation includes fundraising, launching a website, having campaign literature and putting out feelers.

Hoskins declined to say how much his campaign took in at last week’s fundraiser, citing Illinois State Board of Elections rules that don’t require him to disclose that information until October.

The reluctance of candidates demonstrates Yarbrough’s political influence. In the 2006 Democratic primary, Welch ran against Yarbrough for the seat but lost by a large margin. The primary was a bitter one, but both Welch and Yarbrough claim that no hard feelings linger.

“I am still considering this opportunity, but would only consider running if Karen Yarbrough does seek higher office.” said Welch, in an email.

Elsewhere, a press secretary for Moore, whose office Yarbrough is interested in, also did not confirm or deny that Darlena Williams-Burnett, the wife of Chicago’s 27th Ward Ald. Walter Burnett, is being groomed for recorder of deeds.

Askia K. Abdullah, Moore’s press secretary, did say, however, that Williams-Burnett would make an ideal candidate for recorder of deeds because of her experience in county government. She currently oversees the day-to-day operations of Moore’s office, Abdullah said, and is a former Cook County commissioner.

But, “nothing is set in stone,” Abdullah said.