Richard Boykin

Former Cook County Board member and Oak Park resident Richard Boykin is going to challenge Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle in the June Democratic primary.

“We will have an announcement in a couple of weeks, but I think it’s safe to say that we’re in the race,” Boykin said in a telephone interview last week. “The petition passing has been going exceedingly well. People are signing our petitions and encouraging us to fight for them. To make sure that we have a much safer Cook County and we have an affordable Cook County.”

Boykin’s plan to run for County Board president was first reported in the Illinois Politico Playbook.

Boykin, a 53-year-old lawyer, served on the County Board from 2014 until 2018.  During his time on the county board Boykin repeatedly clashed with Preckwinkle. He led the opposition to the controversial sugared drink tax that was quickly repealed and voted against raising the county’s portion of the sales tax by a penny. When he ran for reelection Boykin was narrowly defeated in the 2018 Democratic primary by a Preckwinkle backed candidate, Brandon Johnson. In the 2020 Democratic primary Boykin ran for Clerk of the Circuit Court Clerk but finished third in a four-candidate field capturing 25 percent of the vote. 

Boykin, a former chief of staff for Cong. Danny K. Davis (D-7th District), noted that he carried Oak Park, Proviso and Thornton Township as well as all 18 Black wards in the city of the Chicago in the Clerk of the Circuit Court race. In 2015 Boykin flirted with the idea of running for the U.S. Senate but ultimately did not run. Boykin said that he was proud of his 2020 race for Clerk of the Circuit Court and noted that he received nearly 200,000 votes.

“I feel pretty good about it and I don’t think people will say Richard’s a perennial candidate,” Boykin said. “I’ve run for county offices and that’s it.”

Boykin plans to emphasize crime and the cost of living, including high Cook County property and sales taxes, in his race against three term incumbent Preckwinkle.

“I want to make Cook County neighborhoods safer and I want to also make sure that people can afford to live in Cook County,” Boykin said. “We’ve had an explosion of car jackings, we’ve had an explosion of theft, and the county board president has abdicated her responsibility to protect the people of Cook County.” 

He said that if Preckwinkle has not solved these problems in 12 years as county board president she never will do so.

“President Preckwinkle has done all that she can do,” Boykin said. “She’s been there for 12 years and if you can’t get it done in 12 years then, quite frankly, you’re not going to get it done.” 

Boykin denied that his candidacy will be a personal grudge match against Preckwinkle and is an act of revenge for Preckwinkle backing a candidate who defeated him four years ago.

“I’m a bridge builder and this has nothing to do with that race in 2018,” Boykin said. “This has all to do with the alarming rise in violence in Cook County, that I predicted, by the way, when I was on the Cook County board.”

Although Preckwinkle, who also serves as the chairwoman of the Cook County Democratic Party, has easily won all her races for County Board president her popularity seems to have waned some over her years in office. Preckwinkle ran for mayor of Chicago in 2019 and although she made the runoff, she received only 26.3 percent of the vote in the runoff election against Lori Lightfoot.

Preckwinkle’s campaign spokeswoman said that Preckwinkle is running on her record.

“President Preckwinkle has shown exemplary leadership during her decade as county board president and looks forward to seeking reelection to a fourth term,” said Preckwinkle campaign spokeswoman Hannah Fierle in an email. “She has upheld the county’s legacy commitments to providing affordable, accessible healthcare to residents, advancing criminal justice reform and public safety, and in the last term, providing support and recovery resources during the COVID-19 pandemic. She is proud of the broad support she has earned for another term.”  

Also gathering petition signatures and planning to run for county board president is Zerlina Smith-Members, a resident of the Austin neighborhood of Chicago and a longtime community activist.