He’s from Englewood, but election data shows nearly 60 percent of voters in Chicago’s 18 Black wards voted for three non-Black opponents instead of the former Cook County Commissioner
By Erick Johnson
The email came at 8:22 p.m. on March 17. By that time, Richard Boykin was trailing in third place in the Democratic primary race for Cook County Clerk of the Circuit Court. With his hopes slipping away, Boykin’s publicist emailed the press to say that her client would be watching the returns at his home where he would be available for interviews.
When the night was over, Boykin would suffer his second consecutive political defeat in the past three years. He would lose the election and bring a swift end a comeback that never caught on with many Black voters. He won Chicago’s 18 Black wards, but took well under half of the Black vote. The majority of the Black vote went to opponents Iris Martinez, Michael Cabonargi and Jacob Meister.
He lost to Iris Martinez, an ambitious Puerto Rican female, who stunned her three male opponents by taking 35.63 percent or 545,517 votes that were cast in a primary where more than nearly one million voters in Chicago’s 50 wards stayed away from the polls.
As of press time Wednesday, the Chicago Board of Elections had counted 60,812 of 117,120 vote-by mail ballot applications.
Boykin remains second in the race, but his likely defeat tells a sobering reality for a candidate who arguably had the biggest name in the race. An analysis of the latest election results shows that Boykin grabbed just 40.26 percent of the vote in Chicago’s 18 Black wards, where his three non-Black opponents surprisingly split the Black vote, taking 60 percent of the ballots that were cast in Black wards.
Together, Martinez, Cabonargi and Meister took 81,457 votes away from him in the Black wards according to the data from the Chicago Board of Elections. That dramatic loss of votes may have sealed Boykin’s political hopes. As the only Black candidate, Boykin won all 18 Black wards, but failed to dominate his rivals on his own turf. He failed to win any of the Latino and white wards where his opponents held their ground and dominated Boykin at the polls.
Boykin’s worst showing among the 18 Black wards was the 27th Ward, where he nearly lost to Martinez by taking just 32.46 percent of the vote to her 28.53 percent. In the 3rd, 4th and 5th Wards, Boykin won less than 39 percent of the vote. His greatest margin of victory was in the 37th Ward, where he grabbed 55.64 percent of the vote.
Out of 18 Black wards, Boykin grabbed at least 50 percent of the vote in just nine wards of color.
Boykin won the 18 Black wards, but he needed them with a bigger winning margin for a chance of defeating Martinez, who swept all 14 Latino wards. In the Latino wards, Boykin won an average of just 611 votes–the lowest among the candidates. Boykin also finished last in 13 white wards.
Martinez also won 15 of 18 white wards, but with smaller margins of victory than in the Latino wards. Martinez needed a chunk of the Black vote because her Latino wards comprise just 22.42 percent of Chicago’s 1,524,598 voters. Chicago’s white wards make up 40.34 percent of the registered voters, and Black wards make up 37.23 percent.
The Black wards were perhaps Martinez’s best hope because winning the white vote in a big way would prove to be a tougher battle with Cabonargi and Meister, who took a chunk of the white vote. Out of the 15 white wards, Martinez won just three with over 48 percent of the vote. Cabonargi won three white wards. Meister didn’t win any wards.
Overall, Martinez won 20.11 percent of the Black vote, 49.63 percent of the Latino vote and 28.47 percent of the white vote.
Boykin took 40.26 percent of the Black vote, 9.8 percent of the Latino vote and 12.34 percent of the white vote.
Cabonargi won 17.21 percent of the Black vote, 15.90 percent of the Latino vote and 23.04 percent of the white vote.
Boykin supporters didn’t expect the race to end this this way, especially in the Black wards.
This was Boykin’s first return to the public eye since losing his reelection as Cook County commissioner to Brandon Johnson, a political rookie who was backed by Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle in 2018. The victory was viewed as a punishment after Boykin publicly opposed Preckwinkle’s failed sugar tax two years ago.
This time, Preckwinkle endorsed Cabonargi, a commissioner on the Cook County Board of Review. He was also endorsed by Secretary of State Jesse White and the Cook County Democratic Party, where Preckwinkle serves as chairman. Sources say these endorsements by Black leaders led to confused Black voters and damaged Boykin’s effort to be the dominant choice among Black wards.
An attorney who grew up in Englewood, sources told the Crusader that Boykin had campaigned in many Black churches since October. But sources questioned if Boykin’s campaign manager fumbled a missed opportunity by not using incumbent Dorothy Brown as a public endorsement to boost Boykin’s profile in the Black wards, where some view him as distant. One caller to WVON called Boykin “arrogant” and an opportunist.
Sources said there was also concern that the federal investigation into allegations of Brown selling jobs would harm Boykin’s campaign.
In the past 20 years, Brown has maintained an unshakeable bond with Black voters, who have reelected her four times as she stuck to her roots and weathered criticism and attacks from the media, the political establishment and Cook County Democrats, which endorsed Cabonargi as the next Cook County Clerk of the Circuit Court..
In 2016, when the Cook County Democratic Party rescinded their endorsement of her following a federal investigation, Brown trounced her opponents, taking more than 48 percent of the vote, largely with the support of Black voters. In the race for Chicago mayor in 2019, 13 Black wards backed businessman Willie Wilson after some officials accused him of trying to buy votes after he gave out money during visits to Black churches.
According to sources, Martinez also visited Black churches to win over voters. She didn’t have any high-profile endorsements, but poll analysis showed that she won many women voters, who admired her as the only female candidate in the race. Martinez also gained respect after serving as the first Latina state senator for 18 years.
Election data also show that Boykin’s victories were not strong in Cook County’s predominantly Black suburban townships either.
In Thornton, Boykin won by just 43.69 percent of the vote to Martinez’s 22.76 percent.
In suburban Rich township, Boykin grabbed just 38.13 percent of the vote to Martinez’s 22.86 percent. Overall, in Cook County’s suburban townships, Martinez won 32.08 percent of 387,623 votes. Cabonargi was second with 31.09 percent of votes, and Boykin was third with 23.92 percent.
Boykin did win in his suburban township of Oak Park, but the victory was not impressive. He took 30.09 percent of the vote to Martinez’s 27.71 percent. Cabonargi grabbed 23.29 percent of the vote.
CORRECTION: It was orginally reported that the overall turnout was 141,000.It was in fact 545,517 voters.