Six hope to unseat Bobby Rush in 1st Congressional District
March 1, 2012

By Lisa R. Jenkins

Seven individuals are running for the 1st Congressional District seat held by Bobby Rush (D) since 1993. The district includes much of Bronzeville and beyond in the South Side of Chicago and extends into the southwest suburbs.

Harold Bailey.
Harold Bailey (D) said politicians in Washington, DC, should be fighting to create jobs, rebuild the middle class, and restore the American dream. “Instead, too many of them are busy giving tax breaks to billionaires and waging a direct assault on Social Security, Medicare, health care, and the core services our communities depend on,” Bailey said.

Bailey’s top priority if elected would be revitalizing the economy with a Federal jobs bill to put millions of Americans back to work, provide continued unemployment assistance, and fund apprentice programs for those unable to attend college.

“Every child should have the opportunity to fulfill the American dream,” Bailey said. “The basis of this is a solid, progressive education system. The Federal government should play a role in providing quality educational access to everyone.

Access to enriched early childhood educational programs that provide a solid foundation for intermediate and secondary progression is vital. Some of my priorities for the American educational system include expanding involvements in arts, STEM [science, technology, engineering, and math], and physical education curricula through inclusive partnerships with organizations and companies to create a more comprehensive learning experience.

“Access to an updated college financial aid system, including simplifying and streamlining the loan process [and] making banks more transparent [about] fees and possible penalties, will offer a distinct and relatable pathway to higher education that isn’t riddled with pitfalls based on ignorance and fear, which paralyze progression,” Bailey said.

Bailey has worked for the City, Chicago Park District, and Chicago Public Schools and is a community organizer.

Ray Lodato.
Congressional hopeful Ray Lodato (D) said a bad economy and a lack of jobs go hand in hand. “Jobs are the number one issue in the 1st District, where the unemployment rate is 13.9%, which is 50% higher than the national average,” he noted. “A recent report by the Environmental Law and Policy Center details a number of local clean energy firms that are poised to create jobs.”

If elected, Lodato would sponsor legislation to increase utilities’ use of renewable energy. “We need to create a market for their product, which will create jobs for our residents,” he said. “I also support President Barack Obama’s efforts to build a high-speed rail system from Chicago to other Midwestern cities.” The Midwest High Speed Rail Association has developed plans for such a system, “which will restore Chicago’s place as the nation’s transportation hub,” Lodato said.

Lodato believes inequality in public education funding is the civil rights issue of our time. “We must ensure that each child has an equal right to a quality education, no matter their background, race/ethnicity, or where they live,” he said, noting funding disparities lead to disparities in opportunity, as under-funded schools scramble to provide a basic education, while well funded schools can provide extras. “As Congressman, I will work to ensure that every school can educate children to ensure their success in the jobs of the 21st century,” he added.

Lodato works for a Chicago research firm and teaches public policy at the University of Chicago. Bobby Rush (D) feels no issue is more important to the community’s future than jobs, with young people “hit especially hard,” he said. “At a time when they should be looking towards a bright and promising future, they are instead seeing their hopes diminished and their dreams deferred.” In the 112th Congress, Rush introduced H.R. 1901, which would provide $6.5 billion to reduce youth unemployment.

If passed, the bill would provide tax credits for employers hiring “disconnected youth” (those neither in school nor employed), grants to states to create summer jobs, and a Federal public service employment program.

Bobby Rush.
Some economists predict the economy will rebound but not produce new jobs while it does. “This ‘jobless recovery’ is unacceptable,” Rush said. “There can be no recovery unless the people recover.”

Rush touts the College Cost Reduction and Access Act as a significant education bill dealing largely with funding for higher education. “The bill, which I voted for in 2010, removed tuition sensitivity for Pell grants, increased the amount available for Pell grants, funded the Upward Bound program, established TEACH [teacher education assistance for college and higher education] grants, reduced student loan repayment rates, set deferments based on need, and established some partner-based grants,” said Rush, who noted that, without continued access to proper education and training, meaningful and sustainable jobs will be unattainable.

Rush said his work in Congress protects consumers, supports the military, creates jobs, expands businesses, and promotes America’s national energy policy. “As I look to the future, the needs and interests of the people I serve in the 1st Congressional District of Illinois remain front and center,” he added.

Clifford Russell Jr. (D) said it is “common knowledge” that states with lower taxes have more people doing business. “Lower tax rates put more money in the hands of the consumers who want to spend it,” Russell said. “This creates a greater need for supplies as more and more products are being bought with the extra dollars. This also stimulates the economy.” He noted this approach calls for a balancing act, however, because tax rates that are too low will not generate needed revenue, and tax rates that are too high will limit spending and therefore also not generate needed revenue.

“I will support legislation and initiatives that encourage and promote education,” he said. “There is a recognized disparity amongst communities in both resources and quality of education that needs to be addressed.”

Clifford Russell.
“With there being a direct correlation between unemployment and crime, I completely support measures that encourage job and career creation,” Russell added.

Jordan Sims (D) feels the only way to help the economy rebound is through reducing the debt and deficit, reforming the tax code to eliminate loopholes and increase revenue, and restoring the housing market. “All of these measures will ultimately help restore confidence in the United States’ economy,” Sims said. “Local governments need assistance in these trying times to sustain their workforce and meet their obligation as protectors and providers for the people.

“Businesses need an incentive to hire,” he continued. “No business will bring on new workers out of empathy, but they do so because demand requires them to take on additional labor to produce a good or perform a service.

Since the beginning of the recession, demand has not grown at a quick enough rate to significantly reduce unemployment. The only way to raise demand is through restoring confidence in the American marketplace on both a domestic and international level. The way to create jobs is through the development of human capital,” he noted.

Jordan Sims.
Sims believes the Federal government’s most important role in public education is policy. He feels goals should be set for students and educators across the country and local school authorities be given the necessary leeway to implement their plan. “In particular, a core curriculum would enable schools to have a benchmark, which they could build from,” Sims said. “States would still have choice, but a common thread would link students.” Sims is a community activist and online political commentator.

Fred Smith (D) said that, as Congressman, he would address crises afflicting the 1stDistrict and find remedies to combat them. “I will work collaboratively with Federal, State, and County officials in an effort to find the resources and solutions to resolve [them],” Smith said. Smith feels providing tax credits to companies that create jobs in America, working with banks to increase lending to small businesses, and setting corporate tax rates at a level matching those of other nations will give companies an incentive to create jobs in America and not abroad.

“In these trying times, everyone needs to pay their fair share in taxes,” Smith said. “With the unemployment rate at a 26-year high, we must find ways to cut the budget. We must cut spending on programs that are not working. My priorities are to eliminate the loopholes.”

Smith believes “workable solutions” exist for education problems. “I’m in favor of the Obama
administration’s Race to the Top Program,” which focuses on early learning and development, Smith said. “The first step is to work with parents and educators to find ways to lower the dropout rate. The current dropout rate is 50% in the 1st Congressional District and 37% across America. Those rates are unacceptable,” he added, noting he favors funding to train teachers how to adapt to new and teaching techniques.

Smith is a programdirector at a youth agency, community activist, and veteran of the U.S. Army. Running in the Republican primary, Frederick Collins feels people across the country know the drastic effects that debt and deficit have had on their communities and economy. Eliminating inefficient levels of bureaucracy and irrelevant programs can save billions of dollars, he said. “Vigilance is a vital part of the solution,” Collins said. “Cracking down on Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security fraud along with stringent reviews of government contracts and grants can ensure that…taxpayers’ dollars are no longer wasted.”

The recession “has left a permanent scar on our nation,” Collins said. “In order to turn this country around we need concrete plans. Businesses will not invest in human capital if they believe the general economy is neither stable nor on the road to solid ground. Employers will also avoid hiring when the government is relying on their goodwill rather than boldly taking secure steps to restart the economy with measures that promote spending and fiscal growth.”

Collins said, “A college education is not only a valuable asset, but a necessity. Costs, however, far outpace current income levels. Grants and scholarships are still available but are more difficult than ever to obtain. We need the residual effect of expanded State and Federal funding for students seeking bachelor and post-graduate degrees. Our global economy demands this training foundation. As a nation, we will not be competitive if higher education is unaffordable, especially as wage disparities increase.” Collins has been a Chicago police officer formore than 20 years.