Cook County

Soda Tax Squabbles Linger Over Commissioner Race

Earlier this year the Cook County Board repealed the penny for ounce soda tax but the fallout from that tax is a main issue in one very closely watched county commissioner race.

The contest has Chicago Teachers Union president Karen Lewis--who suffered a stroke last fall--campaigning from the sidelines.

Richard Boykin--who has gained attention for opposing the soda tax--is in a very close contest with political newcomer Brandon Johnson. Preckwinkle is watching this very closely after the soda tax was defeated.

No sooner did the Cook County Board's soda tax take effect, did those who opposed the tax mobilized public opinion and forced the board to repeal the tax.

But one of the lead organizers to yank the tax, Cook County Commissioner Richard Boykin is finding he's a target as he runs for re-election.

"This is about payback, so to speak, and they're basically saying: hey, look, we wanted that sugar tax and we wanted the revenue from it and we wanted those jobs," Boykin said.

Boykin's opponent is Brandon Johnson, a Chicago Public Schools teacher and community organizer who has Lewis cutting radio ads for him.

"People believe that we have a far more greater, I guess, dynamic message than what has been presented from my opponent, Johnson said.

Lewis also agreed to a phone interview with NBC 5 as she recovers from a stroke last fall.

"I think Brandon has his finger on the pulse," she said.

Boykin considered opposing Preckwinkle for board president but backed off. Still, Boykin's critics use the word republican to describe him.

"His fight against Tony Preckwinkle is not what it seems to be," Lewis said, adding that Boykin seemed for like a "Democrat in name only."

Johnson says he is independent, and not tied to Preckwinkle. Still Cook County insiders say should Johnson win this race--that helps her shape the board and will eliminate a voice who often opposes her.

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