Earlier this year, Congressman Bobby Rush, who has served Illinois’ 1st District since 1993, announced that he would be retiring. More than a dozen people have announced their candidacies for the Democratic primary, from alderpersons and state senators to pastors and business owners. The Weekly reached out to each Democratic candidate with a short questionnaire, aimed at helping inform readers ahead of the primary. The answers of those candidates who responded are included below, edited for length and clarity.
Chris Butler is the pastor at Chicago Embassy Church Network.
Jahmal Cole is a community activist and founded My Block My Hood My City.
Jacqueline Collins has served as state senator in the 16th District since 2003 and is the Deputy Majority Chair.
Pat Dowell is the 3rd Ward Alderperson, a position she’s held since 2007.
Jonathan Jackson is a business professor, national spokesperson for the Rainbow PUSH Coalition, and son of Rev. Jesse Jackson.
Marcus Lewis is a retired postal worker and minister.
Terre Layng Rosner is a professor and union negotiator.
Jonathan Swain is the owner of Kimbark Beverage Shoppe in Hyde Park and is the founder of the Hyde Park Summer Fest.
Karin Norington-Reaves is the CEO of Chicago Cook Workforce Partnership and public servant.
Describe the communities of the 1st congressional district that you intend to serve, if elected.
Butler: The district stretches from the South Loop in Chicago down the I-57 corridor to Bradley and Bourbonnais in the South suburbs, wraps around Joliet and heads as far southwest as Godley. This district is incredibly diverse in racial, ethnic, economic and political backgrounds, and contains densely-populated urban areas, suburbs and rural communities.
Cole: The communities of the 1st Congressional District are really diverse, and I got to travel through just about all of them. Over the past fourteen months, I have gone to Frankfort/Mokena, Beverly, Tinley Park, but also gotten the chance to take my campaign through my neighborhood too. Getting to put a yard sign up at the barbershop was really special to me. We have people who ride the Metra, who ride horses—you have people who have so many different concerns, but the number one commonality is that we are all concerned about safety.
Collins: If elected, all residents of the 1st Congressional District would be welcome in my office, and I would strive to identify solutions to concerns brought to my attention by anyone in the District. Just as I have throughout my career, I would, however, pay special attention to vulnerable and underserved communities, including Black and Brown families, lower income people, and seniors.
Dowell: As Alderman of Chicago’s 3rd Ward, my focus has always been on the residents. I represent them all—regardless of where they live, their background, beliefs, or any other factor, I represent them all. I always keep their needs at the forefront. Listen to their concerns and find the best solutions.
Jackson: My first duty in Congress will be to serve the interests of every single person in the 1st District—whether they live in Englewood, Frankfort, Roseland, Hyde Park, Joliet, Kankakee, Orland Park, or the southern suburbs. As Congressman, I will be a voice for the countless Chicago families who simply want access to the opportunities and basic resources that are taken for granted by so many of the prosperous and thriving communities across this great land. I will focus on creating jobs and increasing workforce skills, improving economic security for families, making public transportation more effective, increasing access to and affordability of healthcare, and expanding day care so parents can work without having to worry about their children. I will be a champion of organized labor and will continue to stand shoulder-to-shoulder on picket lines with union workers.
Lewis: Mostly poor people struggling to get to the middle class.
Rosner: Because of historical boundaries and redistricting, the 1st District is a meandering, disjointed conglomeration of diverse constituents. Gerrymandering so that the district is fractured, and “pressing” problems depend almost entirely on geography. The South Side of the city has primarily different issues than those in towns like Bourbonnais. Food insecurity, homelessness, addiction, and safety concerns touch all parts of our district. In some areas these problems are addressed head-on and in some areas people tacitly suffer. I intend to serve ALL parts of the District. An inclusive, cohesive, intentional approach to serving everyone without excluding anyone is the challenge.
Swain: The Representative for the 1st District must not pick and choose which communities they serve—they represent everyone in their district, in all of their varying identities, backgrounds, and lived experiences. As Congressman, I intend to serve each and every individual in my district, and ensure that they know that in me, they have a voice in Washington. I want to demonstrate this commitment by having an accessible office and a real presence in the district, a presence that individuals can depend on to have their questions answered and concerns heard, while being able to access the services that a Congressional office should provide in a quick and effective manner. Although much of a Congressperson’s time is spent in the halls of the Capital, it is the people back home who our elected officials work for, and as Congressman I would never leave behind the people who sent me there in the first place.
Norington-Reaves: This district is incredibly diverse, from its farmlands, to suburban communities,
and urban Chicago. I want to serve all communities in the district. Every resident of the First District deserves a representative that is responsive to their needs and invested in creating economic opportunity and sound policy impact for all.
What are three things that define you as a Chicagoan or Illinoisian?
Butler: I was born and raised in Illinois. I attended Whitney Young High School and Northeastern Illinois University. I met and married my wife here in Chicago. I’m raising my family here. I love this state and my city.
Cole: First and foremost, I’m a volunteer. That’s who I am, who I have always been, and that’s because I care so much about my city and the people in my community. I also love exploration. There is so much to this city and I always say you can travel the world without setting foot outside the city. Finally, I would say food. I love food so much, and that’s one of the things I love about this city and even this district. When I got to go to the different communities, part of that was trying new food while I was talking to people.
Collins: The main things that define me as a Chicagoan are my work, my faith, and my family. As a State Senator since 2003, my job has been to serve as the voice of the people of my district and to give voice to the voiceless, including the homeless and downtrodden, justice involved people, battered women and victims of sex crimes, and people with mental illness. I also consider myself a Chicagoan by virtue of being a warrior in the fight against systemic racism and devoting much of my career to trying to close the racial wealth gap.
My faith closely mirrors my work. I have long been a member of Saint Sabina Church, a revered Chicago institution that is committed to being “a lobbyist for the poor, alienated, and disenfranchised.” Saint Sabina is recognized across the City as being a champion for social justice, especially as a fighter against the scourge of gun violence in Black communities.
Finally, my family and personal life define me as a Chicagoan. I was raised in Englewood and have lived most my life in the 1st Congressional District. My South Side roots run deep. My family migrated to the South Side from Mississippi during the Great Migration, and were one of many families that built the vibrant communities that make up the 1st District today. Dr. King said of Mississippi that it was “a state sweltering in the heat of injustice.” We were one of the families that came to Chicago to find work and escape those oppressive, racist systems of the South, but like many other Black families, we were redlined and segregated here in the North. These experiences–my own and those of my family–give me my passion for seeking justice and fighting for the marginalized and voiceless in our society.
Dowell: My love of the people here, my commitment to public service, and my admiration of the Chicago Sky and Chicago Bulls
Jackson: I believe that activism more than anything else defines me as a Chicagoan. As a close advisor to my father, Reverend Jesse Jackson, Sr., I have had the opportunity to travel the world and to engage directly with world leaders, many of whom held political and ideological views very different from my own. For example, I met with Syrian President Al-Assad in 1983, when Rev. Jackson negotiated the release of Navy officer Robert Goodman. I was also in Cuba when Rev. Jackson negotiated with Fidel Castro for the release of twenty-two detained Americans. These far-reaching travels and high-level interactions with world leaders have shaped my worldview, instilling the lesson that achieving great things often demands compromise, and that understanding opposing views is key to changing the minds of those who hold them. As spokesperson of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition, I have taken on the most intractable problems facing the people of Chicago: discrimination and racial injustices, unemployment, income inequality, voter rights, violent crime, police brutality, unjust incarceration, education, healthcare, homeowner protection, and business development in urban areas. Few of these successes would have been possible without a willingness to engage with opposing views to build a better consensus.
Chicago is my home, a fact that is always made clearer to me when my work as a businessman, activist, and organizer takes me further afield. This is where I was born, where I grew up, and where I intend to remain. The community in which I was raised continues to shape my view of the world and its struggles are my struggles. As an activist and organizer, I have gathered in unity with families and activists, lobbied policymakers, engaged community and civil rights leaders to advance social justice and human rights, end the wanton sale and distribution of weapons, and promote opportunity for all members of our community. These will continue to be top priorities for me in Congress, because I want what is best for my community. As a Congressman, I may have to work in Washington, but Chicago will always be my home.
Chicago may be best known as the “Windy City” or the “City of the Big Shoulders”, but to me it is the City of Hope. My faith in our shared ability to make a better world reflects the fundamental character of this city. Chicago once burned to the ground only to rise again stronger, bolder, greater. Though our city faces many seemingly intractable problems, I believe in our collective ability to rise together. That is what I believe Chicago represents, and that is what makes me proud to call this city my home.
Lewis: I don’t give up. I don’t give up. I don’t give up.
Rosner: Midwestern Ethics, Endurance and Fairness.
Swain: First and foremost, I’m a son of the South Side. I was born here, grew up here, and now I live and raise my children here. I’ve lived and worked in many different neighborhoods across the district and have gotten to know the unique circumstances and experiences of each of these, from Hyde Park to Auburn Gresham to South Shore. I’m a business owner, as are many in Chicago and Illinois. Small businesses are the backbone of our community, and provide places for individuals to not only purchase goods and services, but find community, and it is our sense of community here in Chicago that makes this city so special. And finally, I’m a bridge builder—my diverse experiences equip me with a skillset and ability to make connections unparalleled by anyone else in this race.
Norington-Reaves: 1. I am a 3rd generation Chicagoan whose family grew up on the West side. I
grew up and attended school on the North side, but for 20 years I’ve lived on the South Side in Chatham. My life experience covers nearly all of Chicago. I’m a Chi-Town girl through and through. 2. I’ve served the people of Chicago and Cook County for over 20 years as an advocate, non-profit leader, and job creator. 3. I am a White Sox fan!
Name the top three issues faced by the constituents of the 1st district.
Butler: The most pressing issue in the district is the most pressing issue in the nation—economic inequality and lack of economic opportunity. Two other major issues reinforce our staggering levels of income inequality: first, we have an education system that reinforces income disparities by ensuring kids born to working-class families and the marginalized poor don’t get a quality education. Second, Congress remains gridlocked because, in exchange for corporate campaign contributions, politicians in both parties have signed onto a bi-partisan consensus to get nothing done, a consensus I call the stucktocracy.
Cole: The number one issue in this district is gun violence. So we need someone who is going to be the best, loudest advocate for changing that. We need better education. Our kids are not getting the education and support that they need to be successful, and are forcing them to go into crushing student loan debt. Finally, jobs. We have had more people leave the district because of the lack of opportunities and the violence.
Collins: Crime, Financial Insecurity (including, but not limited to, inflation), Community Disinvestment.
Dowell: Resources, or lack of resources, are my constituents’ most pressing issue. Economic development is key to solving the problems of my constituents. And the scourge of gun violence.
Jackson: My platform is focused on the Three Gs: Guns, Groceries, and Gas—the pressing issues that impact people’s lives and wellbeing every single day.
Lewis: Unbridled crime. Poverty. Little to no access to resources.
Rosner: Inflation, Distrust and Career Politicians.
Swain: I believe that as the Representative for Illinois’ 1st District, it would be my responsibility to listen to my constituents to determine what the most pressing problem is that faces individuals living in the district, not for me to tell them what it is. As such, my first focus will be being present in the 1st District ensuring my constituents have a Congressperson who they can have access to, connect with, who addresses their questions, and who brings resources back from the federal government that can impact their day-to-day lives.
Norington-Reaves: The three most important issues as conveyed to me by voters are: 1. the economy (e.g., unaffordable cost of living, including healthcare, medication, gas, housing); 2. gun violence and crime, and 3. civil rights (from abortion to voting rights and policing reform). As a nationally recognized workforce development leader, I will make the economy and the creation of quality jobs my chief priority. In my experience, quality jobs and economic opportunity for all serve to diminish crime and violence.
Elaborate on the solutions you’re proposing for some or all of the issues you identified above.
Butler: The solution to economic inequality and a lack of economic opportunity must be family-centered work policies. We need to develop a system of paid parental and family leave to support pregnant women, new parents, and family caregivers. We must reduce workplace risks and health disparities for pregnant women and improve maternal and child health research. We have to ensure that every family has access to affordable, quality childcare and early education.
We must also rebalance the economy. Among the needed solutions to do so is a basic income guarantee for individuals and families. We must also strengthen organized labor and give workers the ability to form unions without fear of often illegal and certainly immoral efforts by corporations to stifle this basic need for workplace solidarity.
When it comes to education, we should ensure every community has high-quality educational opportunities that fit the needs of families and children, to lessen the brain drain of young people leaving their hometowns for big-city universities. We need robust, federal support for family engagement in education and we must support family-directed education pathways.
As for our ailing democracy, among other reforms, we must fight for fair balloting, not the first-past-the-post, winner-take-all system we have now. Better options like ranked choice voting, approval voting and score voting, implemented at all levels of government, would give voters more choices and louder voices on Election Day.
Meanwhile, we have to end the reign of Big Money in our electoral system. We must ban federal contributions from corporate PACs and foreign-controlled or influenced organizations. We need to ban people with political, personal, professional, or family relationship to a candidate from running a single candidate Super PAC, and lobbyists from donating, bundling, and fundraising for candidates.
Cole: To solve gun violence, we have to look at the root causes. Because we are going to fight hard to pass legislation that gets AR-15’s off the streets, and limits high capacity magazines, but that isn’t going to change the circumstances people are living in, which is actually the key here in Chicago. So my campaign is the only one that has proposed a piece of signature legislation called “The Root Causes of Gun Violence Act” which is going to take federal dollars, and support the efforts that Chicago has begun investing in. We are going to think critically about the trauma, disinvestment, poor education and impact of all these circumstances to develop solutions. I have identified mental health, education, ending recidivism, and local businesses and entrepreneurs as key factors in bringing down the violence in our city and keeping our people safe and healthy.
When I talk about education, I mean equitable investment in public schools. We know that our country’s history of segregation and problematic education policies have created an incredible educational gap between white communities and communities of color. We have to start by investing in Universal Pre-K, invest in STEM for all kids, especially those who’ve been the most marginalized and excluded from these resources. From there, we have to make public colleges free and accessible, making sure that all students are encouraged and supported, getting the resources they need to succeed.
More and more people are leaving our community because they feel unsafe, and like they can’t thrive. We have to support small businesses in our district and local entrepreneurs, incentivizing them to stay here. To do that, we need to create federal grants that support the creation and expansion of local businesses, and make sure that they are able to give their employees a living wage without making it impossible to keep their doors open. I have been delivering that on the block level through my “Hit The Hood” and small business grants, and I plan to take that to the next level by creating federal programs that do this.
Collins: So-called “get tough on crime” policies don’t work, and they exacerbate pre-existing racial inequities in the criminal justice system. There are two major steps I would take to confront crime. First, I support economic and educational policies that help uplift families from poverty. I also support re-entry programs that give formerly incarcerated people the best chance at becoming productive members of their community. Second, I will champion efforts to prevent the flow of firearms across state lines by placing reasonable restrictions on the sale of firearms and closing loopholes that allow people to travel to states with lower levels of scrutiny to buy guns and then taking them back to the cities. I support a ban on assault rifles, which are weapons of mass death. In addition, this year, I introduced legislation that became law last month (Public Act 102-0889) to ban ghost guns, guns that are homemade without a serial number, and the kits used to create ghost guns. While ghost guns are only a small fraction of the total number of guns on the streets, Illinois has seen a 400% increase in ghost guns in the last five years.
As with most negative economic trends—whether it be inflation or unemployment—Black, Brown, and lower income families bear more than their fair share of the impact. There are several policies and programs that can help alleviate the economic hardships faced by families: direct cash assistance; expanding and increasing the earned income credit; investing in quality, affordable housing; and working with financial institutions, nonprofits, and government agencies to provide low- or no-cost credit to small businesses. I support efforts to mandate employers to pay at least a living wage. A living wage would necessarily adjust with inflation, and thus, would provide working families with some protection against rising food and gas prices.
Community disinvestment is reflected in many ways: banking deserts, food deserts, boarded-up storefronts, foreclosures, dilapidated housing, and the lack of local small businesses that create jobs and provide amenities to the community. Redlining, the systematic and intentional denial of credit and financial services to communities of color, has created racially and economically segregated neighborhoods in the Chicago region. Such segregation will not fix itself. We must enact policies that affirmatively direct resources to these neighborhoods.
In June 2020, WBEZ and City Bureau published a story titled Where Banks Don’t Lend, which showed that, in Chicago, lenders have invested more in a single white neighborhood than all the black neighborhoods combined. In response, I convened a hearing in October 2020 involving the various stakeholders – banks, nonprofits, government agencies, and others – to consider solutions. One of the outcomes of that process was a proposal that became part of the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus’s Economic Access Pillar. The proposal, which was passed and signed into law last year, is called the Illinois Community Reinvestment Act (CRA). The IL CRA requires banks, credit unions, and nonbank mortgage companies (e.g., Quicken, Guaranteed Rate, etc.) to lend, invest in, and serve historically disinvested and underserved communities. The IL CRA is modeled, in part, on the federal CRA, but the federal CRA covers only banks. Illinois is only the second state (after Massachusetts) to adopt a CRA that applies to banks, credit unions, and nonbank mortgage companies.
Dowell: I will use my background as a social worker, city planner, and Alderman to help businesses flourish, bring in federal dollars to back up public and private investment, and create a climate for growth throughout the 1st District in the same way that I have made economic development the cornerstone of my work in the Third Ward. I will be a strong advocate for legislation to get guns off of our streets.
Jackson: Guns—The people of the 1st District do not feel safe, and their feelings are more than justified. Last year, the Cook County Medical Examiner reported more than 1,000 homicides, the most in nearly 30 years. Illinoisans are being held hostage in their own homes, forced to shelter in place daily simply to keep their families safe from gun violence. Residents are now more afraid of stray bullets than they are of contracting Covid-19. As Congressman, I will combat these issues by supporting the “Keeping Gun Dealers Honest Act,” which will make it much easier for the ATF to revoke the licenses of troublesome gun stores. When passed, the ATF will be able to revoke gun shop licenses without having to jump through the hoops of proving a dealer intentionally violated the Gun Control Act. Additionally, the Act increases the number of allowed compliance inspections of gun stores from one to three times per year, allows the ATF to fine gun stores up to $10,000 for violations, and gives the ATF the ability to hire eighty new staff people. I also support President Biden’s National Ghost Gun Enforcement Initiative, which will provide training to prosecutors and disseminate investigation and prosecution tools to help bring cases against those who use ghost guns to commit crimes.
Groceries—Nationwide, the cost of living is rising faster than it has in decades and, with Fed policy in flux as the Central Bank moves to enact the first major series of interest rate hikes since the Great Financial Crisis, it has never been more important for Congress to act to protect our most vulnerable citizens. Much of the current inflationary pressure is concentrated in price increases in food, energy, and rent. These costs are felt most acutely by our poorest and most vulnerable citizens. One way to shield the public from inflation is to expand public service provision—public transit, subsidized medical care, and supplemental nutrition. We need inflation intervention that serves our most vulnerable citizens, and we already have the blueprint. Many of the programs that served us so well during the Covid-19 pandemic can be tailored to mitigate the impacts of inflation. I also support the reinstatement of the Windfall Profit Tax to curb the impact of inflation by limiting corporations’ ability to profiteer from the current crisis. The federal government pursued the same policy during World War II; we can and should respond in kind to our generation’s great political and economic crisis.
Gas—In addition to fighting for fair gas prices and against price gouging, I will support bold legislation that can meaningfully address climate change. First and foremost, I will work to pass the Green New Deal. The Green New Deal offers a two-for-one benefit. Not only does it offer the most comprehensive legislative response to the climate crisis currently on the table, but it also offers major economic boons as a result of refocusing the country’s priorities, including the creation of high-wage jobs, and clean air and water for all.
Lewis: This is where you have to trust me. I must be elected to the office of Congressman to know the specific resources available at my hand to work with and why they have not been utilized before me to help this district stave off the problems I have noted. The people of this district will know that there is a distinct difference at the helm and I will not tolerate any nonsense. We will use the levers of government, like never before, to find solutions and if that doesn’t work, we will try something else, BUT WE WILL TRY UNTIL THESE PROBLEMS ARE SOLVED!!!
Rosner: Inflation is the result of many factors, some of which are the flood of money into the economy, inequity in salaries between the highest and lowest paid in the same company. Grift, greed and world events like the Russian invasion of Ukraine. One significant solution would be to support self-sufficiency in manufacturing and finally wean ourselves off fossil fuels. The distrust between and about politicians is deep. Trust comes from familiarity. Work towards term limits, federally funded and limited-time elections. Require divestiture of sitting government representatives. No representative should be able to become a lobbyist for 10 years after her last term.
Swain: Reducing crime starts with addressing the underlying causes of crime—undereducation, few or no support systems for our young people, and a lack of mental health resources to name a few. I believe we need to increase our support for young people through mentoring, education, and employment. Everyday, hard-working families are also feeling the impact of high healthcare and prescription costs, and significant inflation on the price of consumer goods. In terms of healthcare, I support the expansion of universal healthcare and will work to lower prescription drug prices for Americans. More investment should be made in strengthening community health resources, such as Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) or mental health centers. Costs of consumer goods are also higher than they’ve ever been, which is why I support measures to curb inflation, such as working with the Federal Reserve and also ensuring prices are regulated and fair. The Child Tax Credit should be made permanent in order to continue to help working families make ends meet. I also support the elimination of student loan debt and measures to make public and community colleges free for all, because we are better as a society when more people have increased access to education to help them better themselves and their communities.
Norington-Reaves: From the grocery store to the gas pump, we’re all feeling the pain of higher prices
across the board. This is a real threat to hardworking families and small businesses that are already struggling to recover from the pandemic, make ends meet, and grow. Supply chain issues are at the heart of the problem. While we need to expand the capacity of our ports and inland waterways, the reality is we’re in a global race with China to grow our economies. We have to do everything we can to help American companies create American goods and American jobs. In my work at The Partnership, we have engaged with thousands of businesses to create more than 100,000 quality jobs here, and I’ve seen how it transforms lives and communities! We can do this and I know how. We must work with businesses to focus their efforts on creating more access to quality jobs and career pathways that can insulate working families from the harshest impacts of inflation. When employees have access to competitive wages, supportive and flexible work environments, are engaged and feel respected in the workplace, they thrive! And both communities and companies grow stronger, which will build the strength that we need as a nation to overcome this crisis.
It’s also critically important that we find other ways to put more money back in the wallets of hardworking families. Universal Basic Income, child tax cuts, lowering the cost of healthcare and prescription drugs, increasing access to education and skill development opportunities, lowering the cost and increasing availability of child care are examples of doing just that. These solutions in turn give Americans the opportunity to build family economic mobility and more fully participate in activities that strengthen our economy overall. Crime, and specifically gun violence, is robbing an entire generation of youth of their future. We must get illegal guns off the streets, require background checks for every purchase, and stop the proliferation of “ghost guns,” guns that are sold in pieces off the internet or 3-D printed without a serial number. I also support banning civilians from possessing military-grade weapons. However, the reality is that public safety measures alone cannot eradicate violence.
Our communities have suffered from chronic disinvestment and a lack of opportunity, which serves to create violence. Many people still lack access to quality, good-paying jobs. We have to demand investment in our communities and make sure that federal resources are directed to our district. Those resources must be combined with private and philanthropic sector collaborations to create impact at scale, improve infrastructure, and create jobs. This is how we instill hope, end the cycle of poverty, and develop safer communities. This is the work I’ve been doing my whole life—and will continue in Congress. The right to vote is one that prior generations fought, bled and died for.
Across our country state after state is erecting barriers between people and the ballot, targeting voters of color in a manner reminiscent of the Jim Crow era. This is an attack on our democracy. We must protect every eligible voters’ ability to vote, period, now more than ever. In Congress I will support every effort to restore, protect, and strengthen our nation’s ability to vote.
What would Reparations look like to you?
Butler: It would be great if we were at a place in this country where the real thing holding up Reparations was a disagreement over the exact structure we should implement. That’s not where we are. We should keep pushing for a full-hearted commitment that we must absolutely right this wrong. Ideally, in my mind, it will involve cash benefits. I’m open to many options in addition to cash benefits like land grants.
Cole: Reparations are about more than just slavery, it’s also about all of the racist policies, segregation and violence that happened after too. Reparations have always been about helping people heal from their trauma, recognizing the harm that had been done to them, and the ways that we could help our people recover. So with that, I think reparations for us look like what Germany gave to Jewish people after the Holocaust: money. We have been left out of the housing market, have had our wealth stolen from us, burned down and taken, and it’s time the federal government recognizes that, and gives that back to us.
Collins: Slavery in America is one of the world’s greatest injustices. It underlies the racial wealth gap, which has left many communities of color stuck in a cycle of disinvestment. My plan for reparations is based in part on the work of journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones. Her article, What Is Owed, in The New York Times Magazine, is an important contribution to the subject.
Reparations should include targeted investments in housing, schools, and infrastructure in predominantly Black communities. Individual reparations would go to any person who can document that they identified as a Black person for at least ten years before the beginning of any reparations program and can trace at least one ancestor back to American slavery. Reparations would include individual cash payments to descendants of slaves and “baby bonds” to each child of such descendants. The baby bonds program would give every child of a descendant a savings account seeded with $1,000 when they are born. Children would receive $2,000 more each year and wouldn’t be able to access the funds until they turn eighteen.
Dowell: I am in favor of Reparations. We need a comprehensive plan for Reparations; besides cash payments, we need to provide capital for Black businesses and access to education, including college and vocational schools.
Jackson: Countless innocent Black men, women and children faced the horrors of slavery in America. Indigenous people and communities have also suffered at the hands of unjust government, having faced centuries of violent displacement, systematic discrimination, and (in all too many cases) outright annihilation. Centuries of discrimination and violence cannot be undone with the wave of a hand or stroke of a pen. The long-term damage to both communities is still painfully visible. Reparations policy should start with launching constructive economic and social programs, policy reforms, and public investments that can begin the process of offsetting the years of abuses. Reparations must ultimately be about building institutions that both address the wrongs of the past, guard against racism and discrimination in future, and promote meaningful opportunities for all.
Lewis: Payment in the form of checks from the U.S. Treasury to Black People. Amount to be determined.
Rosner: If provenance and evidence can be found for stolen goods and/or property, then reparations are possible. However, blanket stipends are unwise and impossible to do in a fair and reasonable manner.
Swain: Reparations are key to leveling the playing field for all individuals in this country, and a step towards correcting the legacy of racism that this country has harbored, especially against Black Americans. To me, reparations would include free college, access to home ownership grants to help Black individuals access property and build wealth, and a set of business start-up grants to empower Black entrepreneurs to realize their dreams and pursue business goals.
Norington-Reaves: Reparations would look like multi-generational investments in people, property
and prosperity—the very things denied us as descendants of enslaved people. I want to ensure that just as slavery’s impact endured for centuries, so too should any reparations. A drop in the bucket, single payment relief is insufficient given the centuries of damage done. I want to ensure that any reparations package have profound, life-altering impact at scale; decrease the racial wealth gap; and provide investments in our future generations and their progeny.
Do you support redirecting funds from the police budget?
Butler: I believe in addition and multiplication, not subtraction and division. Even as we add more sworn officers, increase their funding and give them the support they need, we can also make sure our officers are doing the kinds of jobs for which they are trained and best suited to handle. That’s why I believe we should create a civilian corps for non-emergency calls; use civilian and technical support staff to reduce administrative time and court time; create a national faith-based peacemaking investment fund; create a community trauma response force modeled after President Biden’s gun strike force to do intervention in high-need areas in crisis, and explore the creation of a cross-training program where beat cops and violence interrupters train alongside one another.
Cole: I think that we need to be investing in a whole lot more than the police because they can’t do everything, so we have to stop trying to force them to. And we have to stop giving them more and more state and federal funds that give them the same tools and weapons as the military. So I support investing more in other resources to make sure that, when someone is homeless, they aren’t being arrested and are redirected to resources that could actually help them. And the same is true for someone going through a mental health crisis, and so many other situations in this city.
Collins: I support a holistic approach to public safety and providing robust funding to its component parts: mental health resources, after-school programs, economic development, affordable housing, and more. I further support community policing—the long-term allocation of officers to a particular community and recruiting officers from the communities they will serve—and so-called “co-responder models”—a model for crisis response that includes a team of officer, clinician and paramedic. Sending an army of police to respond to a situation involving an individual having a mental health episode is the worst possible response to that type of situation.
I was proud to work with my colleagues in the State Senate to pass the Reimagine Public Safety Act, which became law last year. The Act will provide targeted investments to communities experiencing high levels of violence and will support community-based organizations that provide youth intervention services, violence interruption and trauma treatment.
Dowell: I am the only candidate in this race with experience with a City police budget. We need to work within the budget process to have resources set aside to create solutions such as training mental health professionals to be in the field with police officers.
Jackson: Law enforcement cannot be expected to solve every tangible social need of our community. While effective law enforcement is a critical building block of effective public safety policy, I believe we must pursue a more holistic approach if we want to revitalize communities ravaged by gun violence. That means incorporating community wellness, community education and resources, community mental health services, affordable housing, and other social building blocks into a comprehensive approach to public safety.
Lewis: No. I will file bills for funding for the things the 1st Congressional District of Illinois needs.
Rosner: No. I support rigor in oversight for police budgets. I believe in competitive pay and benefits for individuals willing to serve and PROTECT our communities. Shifting funds in the police budget can alleviate myriad problems. We need to support already fair-minded civil servants and weed out bad actors with common-sense quality control.
Swain: Reducing crime starts with addressing the underlying causes of crime—undereducation, few or no support systems for our young people, and a lack of mental health resources to name a few. I believe we need to increase our support for young people through mentoring, education, and employment. When they are connected with personal support and quality educational opportunities, it can fundamentally change their lives and prevent them from making poor decisions that keep them from thriving in life. While evaluating where we spend our dollars, we need increased funding for police reform to bring about change in policing that reduces harm to diverse communities. Additionally, with a lack of resources in investigatory ranks throughout police districts, when crime does happen, it often goes unsolved—which is why I also support the strengthening of our investigatory ranks within law enforcement.
Norington-Reaves: I support funding police differently than what is currently done. We need to invest
in better training of police officers and holding the ones who violate the community’s trust accountable. We also need to recruit officers from the communities they serve. I support a deeper investment in mental health services that does not necessarily take funding away from the police, but is focused on
meeting the needs of people in crisis with experts who are trained to do just that.
What’s your stance on Roe v. Wade?
Butler: Today’s political discourse sounds nothing like what I’ve heard in my pastoral study when counseling those facing unplanned pregnancy. The women I’ve walked with, even those who ultimately chose abortion, rarely use the impersonal language of abortion rights advocates when describing their pregnancies. No woman has ever come to me exclaiming that she has “a clump of cells inside her uterus”. She says, “Pastor, I’m pregnant.” Neither have I seen the coldness of murderous intent that extreme “pro-lifers” attribute to women considering abortion. I’ve shared in the tears of lament caused by date rape, the mourning of dreams that now seem out of reach, and more.
Whether the Court ultimately overturns Roe this year, we cannot afford to remain stuck in the old paradigm. Americans understand that abortion ends a precious life, but they also realize that preborn lives aren’t the only ones deserving protection. Vulnerable expectant parents, facing record-high costs of living, unaffordable healthcare, inaccessible childcare, and more also need support. A holistic approach to abortion must address both of these concerns.
This means recognizing that abortion restrictions alone won’t create a society in which all lives are protected. It means listening to the diverse voices of families who face real abortion decisions, not political elites and extremists repeating abstract slogans. It means making unprecedented investments in these families, offering support that tackle the root causes driving 630,000 women to abortion every year. Policies such as guaranteed basic income, paid parental leave, and universal healthcare are examples of such necessary investments.
Additionally, efforts to end disparities in childcare access, education, and maternal well-being will eliminate the barriers that make women feel like they must choose between their child and their job, school, and health. By building infrastructure to support families, we remove the crushing burdens of unplanned pregnancy—thus making abortion unnecessary and unthinkable.
Cole: We have to codify it into law, and then fight to make it a constitutional amendment. It will take time to get enough states on board, but that’s the only way we will be able to guarantee the right to choose.
Collins: I fiercely support Roe v. Wade. Moreover, I support public funding to enable poor women to have access to a full range of reproductive health care, including abortion. I will advocate for Congress to codify Roe into law.
Dowell: Right now, women across the country are receiving lifesaving medical care because of Roe v. Wade. As a mother, I know the tough choices women make every day for their families. I believe healthcare decisions should be made between a medical provider and their patient. And I believe in the right to privacy codified in the Fourth Amendment. For all of these reasons, I am proudly pro-choice. In Congress, I promise to protect the freedom to choose. HR3755 and S1975 (the Women’s Health Protection Act, sponsored by Rep. Judy Chu and Senator Richard Blumenthal) cannot wait—and neither can we. The Senate should End The Filibuster and vote. Now. If Roe is overturned, it is the beginning of eliminating civil rights for all of us.
Jackson: The Supreme Court’s plan to strike down Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey—two decisions that previously protected women’s right to choose, across the country—has made it more important than ever that we elect pro-choice champions to Congress who will fight for federal legislation that will codify protections of female reproductive health services, including access to safe and legal abortion. Abortion access is more difficult for poor and working-class families. Working families already struggling to make ends meet must be given federal protections, including access to the full range of reproductive healthcare options. We must ensure that women nationwide have the freedom to make their own reproductive health decisions—and have access to the resources and services necessary to enact those decisions.
Lewis: I say what The Lord Jesus said: “Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill, and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment.” – Matthew 5:21
Rosner: Without hesitation, it should be upheld!
Swain: I believe everyone should have the autonomy to make decisions about their reproductive healthcare for themselves—without their government officials telling them what they can and can’t do. I support measures at the federal level to codify the rights of individuals who can bear children to access whatever reproductive healthcare they deem fit for themselves, and strongly oppose any effort to prevent individuals from accessing this care. Everyone deserves the chance to access reproductive healthcare where and when they want or need it, with no strings attached whatsoever.
Norington-Reaves: Access to a safe and legal abortion is a fundamental health care right. It is more
critical than ever that Congress acts to protect women’s health, safety, and economic future with states like Texas and Mississippi passing laws to essentially outlaw abortion and criminalize women. If the leaked draft Supreme Court ruling on Roe v. Wade is to be believed, it will likely lead to as many as 26 states banning abortion access. This disproportionately affects low income, Black and/or Brown women, and will create long-term harm for them. I will fight to codify Roe v. Wade and protect a woman’s right to choose when and whether to bring a child into the world.
Describe your past interaction, if any, with outgoing Rep. Bobby Rush.
Butler: In my past activist and advocacy work, including work I did on school funding reform, I have interacted with Rep. Rush’s office and with the Congressman himself.
Cole: I have spoken to Congressman Rush, even before I announced I was running and he even encouraged me to run for office. When I filed with the FEC back in February last year, he said he didn’t mean his seat! But he was cool about it afterwards.
Collins: The Congressman and I come out of the same tradition of activism–the Black Independent Movement–that has come to define the 1st District. Over the years, we’ve fought for the same civil rights issues, and I have great respect for his legacy as a Black Panther. Last fall, we were together at Rainbow PUSH to celebrate Rev. Jesse Jackson’s 80th birthday.
Dowell: Congressman Rush has inspired all of us in the 1st Congressional District. He has been our voice in Washington for a generation. For me, he has set the example of tireless public service. I hope to continue that legacy.
Jackson: I grew up with Rep. Rush. Our families have worked together to advance numerous critical causes, both in our community and nationwide. We share a long history of activism. In Congress, I hope to bring new energy to the causes that have always mattered to the people of the 1st District—and to working men and women across the state and nation.
Lewis: Go to www.marcuslewisforcongress.org and go to the ’About” section and read my statement on Congressman Bobby Rush.
Rosner: I’ve lived in the 1st District for thirty years and have never interacted or benefited from Rep. Bobby Rush’s tenure.
Swain: Representative Rush knew my father, and I’ve personally spoken with him twice.
Norington-Reaves: I first met Congressman Rush in 2014 following the death of special education
teacher, Dr. Betty Howard who was killed by stray gunfire while at a real estate office in Chatham. The Congressman convened state and local business, community, and elected leaders from various sectors and asked each of us to commit to being a solution to the problems plaguing the community. As the CEO of the Chicago Cook Workforce Partnership, I offered to bring more targeted workforce development services to the community. But, I needed a location. I suggested that I could create a new Workforce Development Center in an abandoned building in Chatham that would educate and connect job seekers to quality, good paying jobs. I’m proud to say that I was able to follow through on my vision and create the Chatham Education and Workforce Center at 640 E. 79th Street. Throughout the years-long process, the Congressman regularly reached out to me, sometimes directly, sometimes through his staff, to check on the center’s progress. He once stated “when this center is completed it will be due to your tenacity and perseverance.” This is why I earned his endorsement. He knows my record of job creation, my heart for the community, and he has seen me continue to grow as a public servant and leader.
What advantage do you have over the other sixteen Democratic candidates?
Butler: The next congressman will be a freshman Democrat in a closely divided Congress that may be under the control of the Republican Party. [They] won’t be able to get anything done unless they’re able to do two things: stand up to party leadership to advocate for change, and reach across the aisle and work with Republicans to achieve change. I pastor a church in a very conservative denomination, and I also have decades of experience working for social justice. So, I have points of agreement with people across a wide spectrum of political backgrounds and I know how to bring them together to make transformative change.
Cole: The advantage I have is my experience as a community organizer and activist. This district deserves someone who is going to do more than pass laws and vote with the party—we deserve someone who is going to be a powerful leader and advocate, who is going to be connected with the district, and tell our stories on a national stage. I also mention my experience as a community organizer and as the founder of My Block My Hood My City because I have been putting in the work, taking action every day to respond to people’s needs, no matter how big or small. Because we have seen our government fail to provide for us time and again, and that’s what I do—that’s why my campaign slogan is About That Action! It’s because we are going to be helping people in ways that are clearly felt and visible in this district. Plus, I’ve had my ear to the ground for the past 15 years, so I have connections with the community and its leaders so that way, when I get to Washington, I can call up those leaders, and speak directly to the community about the work we’re doing.
Collins: More than any of the other candidates, I have an extensive legislative record that has resulted in concrete and tangible improvements in people’s lives. One of the most recent examples is the Predatory Loan Prevention Act (PLPA), which established a cap of 36% interest on payday, auto title, and other personal loans. Before the PLPA, payday lenders charged an average of 297% interest and they targeted Black neighborhoods. The PLPA, which took effect in March of 2021, has already saved consumers, who are disproportionately Black and Latino/a, hundreds of millions of dollars. The money that consumers have saved can be used to start or expand a small business, to pursue an education, or to spur local job creation by purchasing goods and services in the local community.
The challenges in our communities are a crisis. We cannot afford to give our next Member of Congress the luxury of on-the-job training. My years of experience and record of success as a legislator will enable me to hit the ground running.
Dowell: I am a workhorse, not a show horse. Public service is in my bones. My father was involved in PTA; my mother was involved in our community block club and church activities. I went around with them to attend many of those meetings. I saw what can happen when the power of people comes together to make changes in their lives. That’s why I became a social worker. I like to have an impact on improvements so that people can live happy lives.
For me, elected office is the highest form of public service. I am good at connecting resources together with people who need them. I find programs or resources and put them to use in the community.
I have a passion for small business development and helping people realize their dreams. I’m someone that likes to do cutting-edge projects. I enjoy doing difficult things like renovating a landmark building that might have been torn down and bringing a couple of grocery stores to an area where it was a food desert. I like fixing things.
Those resources, or lack of resources, are among the most pressing issues facing my constituents. Economic development is key to solving the problems of my constituents. I will use my background as a social worker, city planner, and Alderman to help businesses flourish, bring in federal dollars to back up public and private investment, and create a climate for growth throughout the 1st District in the same way that I have made economic development the cornerstone of my work in the 3rd Ward.
Congress needs to do its job and pass legislation to help everyday Americans. To pass legislation, members of Congress need to work together across party lines. In City Council, I learned to work with people across the political spectrum to pass legislation and get the Budget passed.
I will work across party lines in Congress to bring those much-needed resources back to our district. I will protect the rights of First District residents – voting rights, the right to healthcare, the right to a clean and safe environment, and the right to feel safe in their homes and neighborhood.
Jackson: My experience, knowledge, skills, and connections in Washington make me the best candidate and most effective advocate for the people of the 1st District, and for all Illinoisans, in this race. Thanks to my existing working relationships with numerous federal policymakers and legislators, I will be able to hit the ground running from Day One. By leveraging those relationships and connections, I will be able to get things done that other freshmen congresspeople would find extremely difficult—if not impossible—to achieve.
Lewis: THIS IS MY 7TH RUN FOR CONGRESS. I AM READY. I am bringing the Almighty God & The Lord Jesus Christ with me and putting my trust in Him as I make my decisions concerning the constituents of the 1st Congressional District of Illinois, the United States and the World at large. Not in word but in deed. Thusly we will be far better than we ever were before. The Holy Bible says: “When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice: But when the wicked beareth rule, the people mourn.” Proverbs 29:2 KJV
WITH MARCUS LEWIS AS YOUR CONGRESSMAN, THE PEOPLE WILL REJOICE. I AM TOTALLY DEDICATED TO THE RESIDENTS OF THE 1ST CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT. YOU WILL EXPERIENCE A GREAT AND VERY IMPROVED DIFFERENCE IN SERVICE. I WILL DEVELOP A LEGACY OF EXCELLENCE FOR THE RESIDENTS. “Righteousness exalteth a nation: But sin is a reproach to any people.” Proverbs 14:34 KJV
My goal is to “elevate“ the residents of this district to a level not thought possible, simply by doing right by our people. I AM NOT RUNNING FOR CONGRESS TO ENRICH MYSELF. YOU NEED TO KNOW THAT. I WILL BE “PUTTING US 1ST.”
Rosner: This is not my career. I am free of machine politics and have no intention to use this platform for power or gain; owing no one except the constituents of the district. I have thirty years of honing my executive leadership skills requiring intensive problem solving and data-driven rationale. Oversight and fairness are the hallmarks of my current career and will be so when I am elected to this Congressional seat. I am an independent, critical thinker and have learned that listening is always more valuable than talking.
Swain: I have varied backgrounds across civic, non-profit and business spaces. This gives me different lenses to look at problems with, and allows me to bring a different kind of voice than my colleagues in this race can offer. I’m a son of the South Side, an attorney, have an MBA, and have spent decades investing in my community and helping young people succeed. I’m a community leader whose experience is unmatched by anyone else running in this race. I’ve led an education non-profit, run my family’s neighborhood business and held various leadership positions in government.
Norington-Reaves: I am the only candidate in this race who has a proven, demonstrated track record
of creating quality jobs at scale. I have spent the past 11 years building bridges between the private and public sectors to bring resources to the district and beyond. Prior to focusing on workforce development, I advocated for residents through the Citizens Utility Board, litigated for people with disabilities and taught elementary school and English to non-native speakers. My entire career has been solely focused on creating better opportunities for and improving the quality of life of others.
Update, June 16, 2022: This piece has been updated to include an additional candidate who responded to the Weekly‘s questionnaire.
Update, June 24, 2022: This piece has been updated to include the full response to one of the questions by Marcus Lewis.
Jacqueline Serrato is the Weekly’s editor-in-chief. Adam Przybyl is the Weekly’s managing editor.