Who am I?
I'm a grassroots organizer and political activist, and I've been most involved at the intersection of public education and the democratic process. I've been organizing with a citywide coalition of neighborhood groups to fight for an elected school board in Chicago — right now the board is mayoral-appointed, and making some decisions that are really harming our communities. I also led a group of parents, teachers, and community leaders to keep our neighborhood elementary school, a high-performing majority-Latino STEM academy, from being shut down. And I was a leader in the successful push for online voter registration in Illinois, which will be implemented this summer.
I'm also an avid cyclist — I bike to go out knocking on doors every night, even in the Chicago winter! I love basketball, both playing and watching, although I don't get to do much of either during campaign season. And my professional background is in journalism and communications.
Why am I running?
When I first moved to Chicago right after college in 2009, I started working for the Huffington Post's Chicago local page. Immediately, I began to see what people meant when they talked about Chicago politics: the nepotism, the corruption, and the insider deals that benefit those in power and do a tremendous disservice to the working people in our communities. I learned that my own state representative was part and parcel of this entrenched establishment.
But I also saw a burgeoning progressive movement in the city, one that started winning some elections in 2010 and 2011. It was incredibly exciting to me, so I left my job at HuffPost to run for state rep in 2012. I was the quintessential "somebody nobody sent," coming totally out of nowhere as a 24-year-old challenging the most powerful political institution in Illinois. But with the help of an amazing grassroots campaign (and a whole lot of support from DFA!), we got 49.3% of the vote, only 125 votes from winning.
So I'm running again. There are so many important concerns facing our community — public education, safety, economic reform — and we deserve representation that's progressive, that's independent, and that's accountable to the community, not to special interests or political leaders. This election in March presents us the opportunity to make that happen.
My biggest passion is improving public education. There's a lot to be done at the state level on this issue. Ensuring adequate and equitable funding for public schools is a top priority. Getting an elected school board in Chicago is actually a state issue, and one that I've been talking about for some time. I believe we need to pass a moratorium on school closings as well, as they've been very harmful in our city in recent years.
Economic policy is another major issue for me. I believe we need a progressive income tax in Illinois to make sure that the wealthiest folks in the state are paying their fair share while working families get their tax burden eased somewhat. We also need corporate tax accountability — two-thirds of corporations in Illinois pay zero in state income taxes, and that's not right. I'll also advocate for a financial transactions tax to make sure that the big banks doing business at the Chicago Board of Trade are contributing to the state's economy and not just profiting from it.
Finally, public safety is a major concern for folks in my district, and I believe we need to address it in a holistic manner. It's not about throwing more kids in jail — in fact, it's just the opposite. We need more alternatives to incarceration, and a much more diligent focus on re-entry programs for former offenders to make sure they have a stable environment to return to when they have served their time.
My DFA Values
Our campaign is very much community-driven. Our volunteers knock on their neighbor's doors and get the word out every night. We're present and active at community events, and folks around the neighborhood know who I am and are excited to support me.
A sense of security is something many families in my district are missing right now, and something we talk about providing when we're at their doors. Whether it's the security of a stable and good-paying job, of knowing the streets are safe for their kids, or trusting that government is truly working in service of the community, we seek to bring that comfort to our community.
And the fight for liberty and equality is one that we will take to the halls of Springfield. I have long been an advocate for full equality for our LGBTQ brothers and sisters, I am a strong supporter of the freedom of working people to organize and collectively bargain, and I believe in privacy as a right to be asserted, not a luxury to be discarded.
My Campaign is People Powered!
The campaign is completely focused on grassroots organizing. In addition to the 5 hours a day I spend knocking doors in the district, we have a core of over 100 active volunteers who reach out to voters door to door and over the phone. We've built a coalition of progressive activists, elected officials and organizations behind the campaign. Three progressive leaders on City Council have endorsed us, and we have been endorsed and adopted by our local chapter of DFA as well as by the Chicago chapter of Progressive Democrats of America, and have organized joint canvass days with those two organizations to engage our progressive supporters as a group.