George Blakemore Credit: Jeff Marini

Fed up with the Cook County Board of Commissioners? Looking for a way to stick it to them? If you happen to live in the county’s weirdly gerrymandered Third District, you’ll have an opportunity in the fall election to present that august body with its biggest nightmare: “Chicago’s most concerned citizen,” George Blakemore.

Blakemore, a teacher turned Maxwell Street vendor turned city’s most diligent watchdog (he’s been a vocal presence at county board and other local government meetings for years), emerged victorious in this week’s primary elections as the Republican candidate for the Third District seat on the county board.

You might chalk that up to the fact that he ran unopposed. But in a district that generally votes about 95 percent Democratic, he managed to score nearly 2,000 votes (1,946, to be precise).

Who’s to say that’s not the beginning of a movement?

Bill Lowry, the winner among seven Democratic candidates for the same seat, got about 16,600 votes. The seat’s being vacated by the retirement of former A-list soul singer and 33-year commissioner Jerry “Iceman” Butler.

Blakemore, who is 76, says he’s a Republican—though he doesn’t vote a straight ticket—”because I’ve seen how the Democratic machine has taken the black community for granted.”

And he’s worried that board president Toni Preckwinkle may prevail upon Butler to step away before November, which could allow her to appoint Lowry to fill the vacancy, giving him a leg up the election. Blakemore’s own history with Preckwinkle includes an incident he says happened last summer in which she had the sheriff handcuff him and oust him from a public meeting to keep him from speaking. 

As for the primary election results overall? “I was very disappointed in the black elected officials being a sellout for Pritzker,” Blakemore says.
“He was throwing money around in the black community. But what we need in our community is jobs, contracts, and services. And our elected officials, they’re not doing it.

“I hope that people in the Third District won’t be hoodwinked into voting a straight ticket,” he continues, “that they’ll be able to vote for me. Because it’s not just about the party, it’s about the character of those who are running for the office.”

His platform includes opposition to Chicago’s sanctuary city status, which he says has a negative effect on employment in the black community. 

“I don’t know if I’m going to be welcomed by the Republicans or welcomed by the Democrats,” Blakemore says, “but people should do this to let it be known that they are not bought and sold and glued to the corrupt Democratic machine.”