To most voters, Tuesday's primary election was a snooze. Even before the polls opened, John Kerry had overpowered all other Democratic presidential candidates, and Jack Ryan and Barack Obama, who led opinion polls in the U.S. Senate race, handily won.
But for Democrats on Springfield's East Side, election day was more suspenseful, as a younger generation of activists challenged several longtime party leaders [see "Taking off the gloves," Jan. 29].
The younger group, lead by Unity for Our Community charter members Roy and Mike Williams and calling themselves East Side Pride, mounted a slate of seven candidates to run for precinct committee chairs. Two -- Leonard Shanklin (precinct 108) and Amy O'Connell (precinct 105) -- ran unopposed. One, Linda Douglas-Williams, topped an incumbent, capturing 50 votes to Alphonso McKamey's 22 in precinct 79.
Mike Williams lost by just seven votes (59 to 52) to Faith Logan in precinct 75. Roy Williams was trounced 160 to 32 in precinct 119 by Cecil Turner, vice-chairman of the Sangamon County Democrats. Allen E. Williams lost to Carolyn Toney by 19 votes (83 to 64) in precinct 23.
But the campaign for a change in East Side leadership continued after polls closed. The County Board race between Roy Williams and incumbent Doris Turner, Cecil's wife, made front page news with a photo of Williams asking election judges to examine absentee ballots. A team of State Journal-Register reporters found many absentee voters home on election day.
The Turners declined to speak with Illinois Times. In an interview on WMAY (970 AM), however, Doris Turner said Williams' charges of voter fraud may have worked in her favor. "You can't just say those vicious, ugly things about me and not have people rally to my support," she said.
Roy Williams said another factor in the defeat of East Side Pride candidates was the stance they took against gun violence. Throughout the campaign season, they had consistently advocated for people who commit firearms offenses to be charged. "I want 'em to get in trouble when they shoot," Williams says. "One reason kids run around with guns is no one ever gets charged."
So last month, when a young man was shot inside White Oaks Mall, Williams said he couldn't back off his position, even though the shooter turned out to be a 16-year-old kid.
"Young people that were going to vote for this change [in leadership] decided to stay home," he says. "That hurt, but I've got to stand on principle."