In a video provided by Brandon Johnson’s campaign, Cook County Commissioner (1st District) Richard Boykin, a Democrat incumbent, claimed during a recent debate against his progressive primary challenger, Our Revolution-backed Brandon Johnson, that he never pushed for United Nations Troops to occupy Westside Chicago as a solution to the violence and crime rates in that part of the city. The video, which you can watch below, includes previous statements made by Boykin that contradict that claim, part of what his primary opponent argues is a dangerous proposition that ignores the socio-economic factors in perpetuating violence and crime in Chicago.
Boykin did not respond to a request for comment.
“At a time when our communities have been impacted by disinvestment, over-policing, doubling down on mass incarceration, militarization and occupation is no solution to combating gun violence in black and brown neighborhoods,” said Stephanie Gadlin, a spokesperson for Johnson’s campaign, in an interview with me. “Boykin does not live on the West or South sides of Chicago, so he nor his family would have to watch as foreign troops patrol our streets in so-called ‘peace-keeping tanks’ while holding ‘peacekeeping’ military grade weapons.”
The county race is reflective of several progressive challenges to Democrats occurring in the Chicago area and across the country. Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-IL), a member of the conservative blue dog caucus whose district encompasses much of southwest Chicago, is facing a primary challenge from Marie Newman, who has outpaced him in campaign fundraising and received endorsements from fellow Democrats and grassroots organizations. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s 2015 election opponent, Jesus Chuy Garcia is a favorite to replace Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL), who announced his retirement last year. Rep. Danny Davis (D-IL), another congressman representing a significant portion of Chicago, is facing a primary challenge from activist Anthony Clark, who was one of the first candidates to receive backing from Brand New Congress, a progressive organization founded in late 2016 by former Bernie Sanders staffers.
Critics claim Cook County Commissioner Richard Boykin is an establishment Democrat in Chicago, prompting a formidable challenge from the left this year. His opponent, Brandon Johnson, has received the support of several fellow Democrats in elected office, including Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White, two Chicago Aldermen, and the Chicago Teachers Union.
Though Boykin has held his elected seat as a Democrat, he’s aligned with Republicans and favored conservative policy stances during his tenure in office. In 2010, he supported Republican Mark Kirk to replace Barack Obama’s vacant U.S. Senate seat, and has made several political contributions to Illinois Republicans.
“He’s donated money to Republicans and endorsed Republicans.” Brandon Johnson said in an interview with me. “He has a 10 point plan for County Government. Six of those points drive down wages, eliminate jobs, and set austerity. It’s a very conservative set of proposed ideas and the only people to sign onto that plan are the Republican leaders in Illinois.”
Boykin has previously characterized his support of Republicans as a symptom of bipartisanship to be revered, rather than a flaw in his own politics representing a Democratic stronghold.
Progressives like Johnson are challenging Democrats like Boykin who ignore the needs of their constituents in favor of austerity-based policies and propose extreme conservative solutions to the problems facing the communities they represent. Johnson added, “He has taken on all of these right-wing ideas, even though he represents a very blue district. Someone like Boykin is not the proper representation for the first district.”