Former Ald. Isaac “Ike” Carothers' fell short Tuesday in his attempt at a political comeback following a public corruption conviction, finishing third in a five-way Democratic primary contest for Cook County Board that drew the attention of some of the most powerful forces in local politics.
Richard Boykin, a Washington, D.C., lobbyist and former chief of staff to U.S. Rep. Danny Davis, D-Chicago, declared victory in the 1st District race. Conceding defeat were Carothers and second-place finisher Blake Sercye, who had the backing of Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle.
“We've still got to win in November,” Boykin told supporters at a celebration in Oak Park. “Let's celebrate tonight and get to work tomorrow.”
Carothers is known as much for his street-level political skills as for the fact both he and his father were convicted of taking bribes three decades apart, and he acknowledged that his criminal record likely was a problem.
“Certainly for some people it could have been an issue,” he said. But he did not close the door on a future run for office.
With 90 percent of precincts reporting, Boykin had nearly 31 percent of the vote, Sercye had about 27 percent, and Carothers had 22 percent, according to preliminary results.
In the rear of the pack were Brenda Smith, an aide to current Commissioner Earlean Collins, who did not seek reelection, with 17 percent; and financial consultant Ronald Lawless, with less than 2 percent.
In early results from other closely watched county primary contests, city worker Luis Arroyo Jr. claimed victory over incumbent Northwest Side Commissioner Edwin Reyes; Sheriff Tom Dart was easily defeating three challengers; and appointed Commissioner Stanley Moore was coasting to victory in a three-way race for a district covering the far South Side and south suburbs.
In a Republican primary for a southwest suburban district, three-term incumbent Commissioner Elizabeth Doody Gorman was beating back a challenge by Dr. Barbara Bellar.
Commissioner Deborah Sims, who represents a different swath of the South Side and south suburbs, was well ahead of her Democratic primary challenger, as was Commissioner Jerry “Iceman” Butler in a district that sprawls along the Lake Michigan shore from downtown into the South Side.
The night was proving to be a mixed bag for Preckwinkle, who put considerable muscle behind Sercye and Reyes and also backed Moore and Sims.
Preckwinkle's endorsement of Sercye was made not only to seek a potential ally on the board, but more pointedly to defeat Carothers, with whom she had a sour relationship when both were on the Chicago City Council. Preckwinkle also said she opposed allowing someone convicted of public corruption getting elected to county office.
“You work hard in races, you do the best you can and the voters decide,” Preckwinkle said Tuesday.
Carothers was released from federal prison two years ago after doing time for bribery and tax fraud for accepting home improvements in exchange for a favorable city zoning recommendation while alderman.
Carothers, 59, said during the campaign he had paid his debt to society and should have his full rights, including that to run for office, restored. He contended he was a fine alderman for the 29th Ward during his 11-year tenure.
Sercye, 27, a University of Chicago Law School graduate, said he would be a break with the past, while Boykin, 45, played up his credentials and experience and had the backing of Davis and Dart.
During the past year, 1st District candidates all together raised more than $566,000, making it the most expensive Cook County Board race in recent memory. Boykin alone raised more than $307,000, nearly a third of it from himself and much of the rest from out-of-district individuals and businesses, according to state campaign disclosure records.
Winning the Democratic primary in the 1st District is tantamount to victory in the predominantly blue district. In another closely watched contest, incumbent Reyes had 44 percent of the vote to Arroyo's 56 percent, with 92 percent of the precincts counted.
Chicago political chieftains appointed Reyes, a now-retired Illinois State Police trooper, to his seat in 2009. The following year, he won election with the backing of then-Ald. Richard Mell, 33rd, and state Rep. Luis Arroyo, the father of Arroyo Jr.
But the elder Arroyo and Reyes had a falling out over the remap of his district, and Reyes fired two employees allied with Arroyo and Mell. So the local regular Democrats backed the son, one of four family members on public payrolls, while Reyes was backed by Preckwinkle and other self-described Democratic reformers.