The self-proclaimed true independent

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This week, AustinTalks will be profiling each of the five candidates seeking the Democrat nomination for the 1st District seat on the Cook County Board of Commissioners.

West Side voters will see a familiar name when they go to the polls March 18. Ronald Lawless is running for 1st District Cook County Board Commissioner – again.

Lawless challenged the retiring incumbent, Democrat Earlean Collins, four years ago in the general election, running as a Green Party candidate. He lost, garnering just 14 percent of the vote to Collins’ 86 percent, according to Cook County clerk records.

Lawless said he’s running as a Democrat this time because Green Party candidates no longer automatically appear on the ballot as they did in 2010.

Bruce Samuels, an Oak Park Library trustee, has been a strong supporter of Lawless since his unsuccessful effort to oust longtime Commissioner Collins.

“He believes the people should have the power,” Samuels said.

He said Lawless has proven his independence from machine politics countless times, with the best example being his uphill challenge as a third-party candidate four years ago.

“You can’t get more independent than that,” Samuels said.

He believes Lawless has a fighting chance this time.

“Four years ago he ran as a Green Party member and got 14 percent of the overall vote,” Samuels said. “In this race, that may be all he needs to win.”

But Dick Simpson, a political science professor at the University of Illinois-Chicago and a former Chicago alderman, said even with five candidates splitting the vote, a Lawless win isn’t likely.

“He has been in the political realm for a while,” Simpson said. “But I don’t think he’s a contender in this race, especially after (Blake) Sercye was endorsed by the mayor and Cook County Board president.”

Lawless, 53, calls himself the only “true independent” in the five-way race, which many believe has come down to three candidates: Blake Sercye, Richard Boykin and Ike Carothers.

“I’m running to represent the people,” Lawless said.

Lawless owns an insurance and financial consulting business, Lawless & Associates, that caters mostly to current and retired teachers.

“If people vote for me, they’ll get someone who knows the district,” Lawless said. “I’ve lived in Oak Park for almost 30 years, and I love my community.”

He touts his anti-machine politics, saying he’s running again because he believes the people of the 1st District are being neglected, and the other candidates, should they win, will not be loyal to everyday residents.

“The current commissioner has not been informative or engaged,” Lawless said. “She as well as the other three candidates are sponsored by political bosses. I have been independent in word and deed over many years. When you are a candidate sponsored by a political boss, you belong to them.”

Lawless boasts of his grassroots campaign, saying he’s recruited about 50 volunteers and gone door to door.

He has reported raising $50,000, all of which was donated by the candidate himself, according to the Illinois State Board of Elections.

He said he’s also received $10 contributions through his $10 by 10 campaign, where he’s encouraged community members to groups of 10 to contribute $10 each every month. These small amounts don’t have to be reported to state election officials.

Lawless serves as a program director for legislation for the Illinois PTA, a position he was appointed to in 2012. Through that position, he said he’s gained valuable experience working with state lawmakers, and he promises to would continue building those relationships as commissioner.

“I’ve helped several bills for young people get passed in the Illinois legislature,” Lawless said, pointing to HB2401 and HB2404. “I’ve helped write and explain legislation.”

Lawless – who also ran for the Illinois Senate in the 1990s – said he wants 1st District residents to be informed about what’s going on and how they can get involved in the process.

He said he will strive for transparency if elected, holding regular press conferences, writing editorials and staying connected through technology.

“Commissioners, especially on the West Side, have not had the desire or the will to do this,” he said. “Commissioner Collins doesn’t even have a web site people can go to to engage.”

“We need to make our elected officials accountable for us,” he said. “And we need to get some of our elected officials unelected.”


Campaign web site

Telephone number: (888) 551-3536

Campaign headquarters: P.O. Box 82, Oak Park, IL 60303


Candidate questionnaire completed for the Chicago Tribune 

Campaign finance reports filed with the Illinois State Board of Elections

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