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Mother, son run against each other in race to be mayor

CHICAGO -- Wendy and Randall Casey don't talk much over breakfast these days. Or lunch. Or even dinner.

Truth be known, even though the mother and son share a home in Dixmoor, Illinois, they usually just pass each other in the night. After all, one doesn't want to reveal too much campaign strategy to your opponent.

"Our relationship hasn't been as strong as it normally was," Wendy Casey conceded, in a room festooned with family photos of Randall at a much younger age. "We just interact, saying, 'Good morning,' and, 'Good evening,' when he comes in from work."

The two Caseys are running against each other for village president in Dixmoor. Although Randall said he prefers to put it this way: "I'm not running against my mom. I'm running for the people of Dixmoor."

By all counts, the poor south suburban community could use some help. Abandoned buildings stand like rotting trees citywide. The elder Casey says a fire engine was recently repossessed. The community famously missed payroll for city employees not once, but twice.

Against that backdrop, mother and son say they both want the job. And they both want to win.

"I feel, in my honest opinion, that he is not mature mentally to take on the responsibility of running a community," she says. "If I win, I think he will be very supportive."

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Randall prefers not to talk about the contest against his mother, saying he doesn't want what some might perceive as a humorous sideshow to detract from the genuine problems Dixmoor faces.

"I don't want to embarrass the people of Dixmoor," he said. "The people of Dixmoor have had enough embarrassment."

Indeed, Dixmoor seems almost comically at odds with itself. Incumbent mayor Keevan Grimmett was thrown off the ballot earlier this year after he was accused of being effectively homeless and living in his city hall office.

"He has no gas, no electricity, and no running water," the elder Casey said.

'The town is split'

Grimmett denies that, and after an appeal managed to get reinstated to the ballot.

"I have all the amenities that anyone would have," he said. "And I guess the biggest thing I have is a lot of electricity for the village of Dixmoor."

The town could use more than electricity. Stories of unpaid bills are legendary. A would-be community center, started with a federal grant, sits half finished and open to the elements, seemingly abandoned. Per capita income for the town's 3,500 residents is just under $13,000. Warring factions have led to walkouts by trustees during village board meetings.

"The town is split," agrees write-in candidate David McWilliams, a local merchant. "I'm here to pull both sides together."

At times, it's difficult to tell the players without a scorecard. Trustee Dorothy Armstrong is also seeking the post. Michael Smith, a former trustee, is running for his old job on the village council. He lost it after he was accused of stealing gasoline, and it was Smith who initiated the investigation of the mayor's residency.

Even Randall Casey brings a complicated linage. His father, Donald Luster, is a former mayor who was forced to step down after he was convicted of fraud. Luster has endorsed his son.

Wendy Casey says if her son wins, she will be respectful.

"I will hold him accountable," she says.

For now, that accountability includes collecting rent from her son, once a month.

"Of course," she says. "I can't let him live here rent-free. I wouldn't be a good mother if I did that."