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Cornell Mills: I’m my own man Stands by mother Dianne Wilkerson

Cornell Mills: I’m my own man
Stands by mother Dianne Wilkerson

FAMILY TIME: City Council candidate Cornell Mills, left, campaigns with his daughter, Amaris, 8, and son, Cornell Jr., 11, by his side. Mills says he stands with his mother, ex-state Sen. Dianne Wilkerson.
Photo By Stuart Cahill
By Colneth Smiley Jr. and Jessica Fargen  |   Sunday, February 20, 2011  |  http://www.bostonherald.com  |  Local Politics

Photo by Stuart Cahill
City Council candidate Cornell Mills is standing by his mother, disgraced former state Sen. Dianne Wilkerson, but he insists he is running for office as his own man.

“The good that she’s done for this community far outweighs the negative aspects,’’ Mills, 36, told the Herald in a rare interview on his mother, who begins serving a 3 1/2-year prison term next month on a federal corruption conviction.

“There are always two sides to the issue, and she’s going to have her opportunity to give her version of what happened,” he added. “But I am very proud of her record. I’m very proud of all the accomplishments that she’s made.

“I’m running on my record. I’m not running based on anything that my mother’s done.”

Mills — a real-estate agent, former civilian investigator for the district attorney’s office and married father of four — is facing an uphill battle against heavily favored Tito Jackson in the District 7 special election to replace Chuck Turner. The 70-year-old former councilor also heads to prison next month for his conviction in the federal corruption case.

“With my mother gone and with Chuck Turner being gone from his seat, there’s a lack in leadership,” said Mills, seated at his Roxbury kitchen table. “There’s a void in advocacy. So I wanted to make sure this community knew there was still someone here that’s willing to fight for them.”

Last week, Mills earned a spot on the March 15 election ballot, garnering 10 percent of the vote, far behind Jackson’s 67 percent.

Mills said he and his older brother, Kendall, grew up watching his mother struggle as a single parent who fought fervently for the poor. Before she ran for office, Wilkerson was a civil rights attorney who served as lead counsel for the NAACP. She is credited with winning a landmark case that resulted in the desegregation of Hub public housing.

“Whenever you fight for the poor or for the less privileged, there are a lot of forces at play that don’t want to see you succeed,” Mills said of her eventual downfall. “And that’s the reality of where we are at today in this city.”

Mills — who worked on his first campaign when he was 10 — said he is running on a platform to “stimulate economic empowerment and development.” The Boston College High School grad describes himself above all else as a family man, raising his kids with his wife, attorney Stephanie Soriano-Mills.

“My kids walk the streets of this city,” he said. “So it’s my responsibility to do the things my elders did and sacrifice part of my life to make sure their lives are left in a better position.”

Mills acknowledges he’s facing a seasoned campaigner in Jackson, who ran unsuccessfully for the council two years ago and worked on Gov. Deval Patrick’s re-election bid.

Jackson, declining to comment on the scandal that brought down Wilkerson and Turner, said he’s focused on the economy.

“The real issue is on the here and now,” Jackson said. “People in our community need work, jobs and economic justice. People want to walk down safe and clean streets.”

Article URL: http://www.bostonherald.com/news/politics/view.bg?articleid=1318057

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