When you call the town hall of Dixmoor, Ill., a cheerful operator answers the phone and says, "This is the village of Dixmoor, where good things are happening."
Something unusual is happening there, too: The mayoral race is pitting a mother against her son.
Wendy Casey, 45, is taking on her son Randall Casey, 27, in the battle to run the small village of 3,900 people just south of Chicago. While the prevailing sentiment in town is that neither Casey will win, but rather the incumbent mayor Keevan Grimmett, the family feud has sparked increased interest in the race.
"Both of us are in campaign mode right now," Wendy Casey said with a laugh. "The boxing gloves are on. He's still my son and I love him, but he's my opponent. That's just politics. That's just the way it is."
The two are not just family, but housemates: They live together in a small red-brick house on a residential street outside the center of town. On the front window, a sign urges people to register to vote.
It is not the first time the two Caseys have opposed each other. They ran in a board of trustees election last decade, but both lost. However, as Wendy Casey quickly pointed out, she earned more votes. Ahead of the April 9 election, Wendy Casey urged her son, a technician for Comcast, not to run for mayor, but he refused to step aside.
"We each put our best arguments forward and neither of us could come to an agreement on who should run," she said. "So here we are today, just two strong-minded people.
"On one hand, I'm proud of him for running for elected office," she added. "But on the other hand, I think he should have waited. It's disrespectful of him. It's like a defiance on his part. Certain lines you just don't cross."
According to Wendy Casey, a self-proclaimed "political junkie," she and Randall Casey no longer discuss politics at home.
"We're cordial, but we don't speak about politics. It has been very hard for me as his parent and his mom because we do have a close relationship," she said. "I miss talking to him about various topics. If we start that conversation up it's going to go back to the race, so I felt that it'd be better if we just say hi and bye."
At one point, Wendy broke down in tears when talking about the strain that the election battle is taking on her family.
"It's hurting me," she said. "I miss the conversations we had, and we can't have those anymore."
While Wendy Casey initially believed that her son would agree to a joint interview at the family's house, he backed out, claiming that the family feud had become "a charade."
"My 15 minutes of fame won't help the people of Dixmoor," he said over the phone. "I won't be doing any interviews until further notice because I don't want to bring shame on me or my family. A mother against her son running for mayor is a charade that is shocking people. I don't want to add to that. I have too much pride, too much integrity to be used in a way that will bring negative attention to myself, my family and the people of Dixmoor."
Residents around town seemed to agree that the Caseys' duel was a distraction. In a town faced with serious issues -- numerous homes and businesses are boarded up -- some residents said they will vote for neither of them, some supported him, others her.
"I think it's disrespectful of him," said one resident, Fitzgerald Roberts. "As a voter, it's confusing. Why would they run against each other? I tried to talk to him and get him to let his mom run. It's all about respect."
Roberts plans to vote for the fourth candidate in the race, Dorothy Armstrong.
Wendy Casey acknowledged that her rivalry with her son does not reflect well on the family.
"It makes both of us look bad, like we're both playing political games. It's bad with our family because they can't show favoritism," she said. "They said someone should step back and he refused to do it, but I raised him to be a strong-minded independent thinker so this is what happens."
It may be in the Casey blood. Wendy Casey's ex-husband and Randall Casey's father, the Rev. Donald Luster, won the town's mayoral election in 2001, but he was soon indicted on fraud charges. It is a subject that Wendy Casey does not want to talk about.
For now, she prefers to concentrate on her campaign -- a bare-bones one at that. With no campaign signs, t-shirts or pins, she simply goes door to door in her neighborhood asking for votes. One month from now, we will find out if mama really does know best.
- Family & Relationships