In the 4th District state congressional race, a Venn diagram of the candidates’ positions looks like a circle: Barely an inch of disagreement separates the four women running for the open seat. Instead, at a candidate forum last week, experience and connection to the neighborhood made the difference.
The candidates—Iris Millan, Alyx Pattison, Delia Ramirez and Anne Shaw—met at Moos Elementary School (1711 N. California Ave.) March 7 to make their case for the District 4 seat. The district covers much of Logan Square.
All four women are running in the March 20 Democratic primary. With no Republicans in the race and incumbent Cynthia Soto stepping down, the primary will act as the default general election. (The official general vote happens Nov. 6.)
Guests at Moose’s large auditorium last week heard the words “I agree” a lot. When the moderator asked for shows of hands on issues like raising the minimum wage and creating a progressive income tax, four hands invariably rose. In their opening and closing statements, then, the candidates sold themselves via their life stories and the work they’ve already done for the district.
Ramirez, a social services leader who was the deputy director of Chicago’s Community Renewal Society, said she lives on the same block in the 4th district where she grew up.
“Since the age of three, I’ve been going to Springfield with my parents to fight budget cuts,” she said. “I’ve lived in this district my whole life. And I’ve dedicated my entire life to fighting for this district.”
Ramirez also mentioned becoming executive director of the Center for Changing Lives at age 21, where she “had the opportunity to serve the some of the most vulnerable people in our community.” She promised to be accessible as a representative by holding quarterly town halls and office hours.
Pattison, an attorney and school-council member, said growing up in poverty convinced her of the need for government aid.
“I am from a single-family home… Coming up, we struggled,” she said. “The safety net was there for me, so I recognize how important a role government can play.”
She also touted her work at the Jose de Diego elementary school, where she started a tutoring program and a free legal clinic. “I’ve given back to my community and I want to keep giving back to my community,” she said.
Milan, a community organizer who has worked for 1st Ward Alderman Proco Moreno, immigrated at eight years old from Mexico to Logan Square. “Ever since I immigrated here, I’ve lived in 4th District communities,” she said. Her work in the neighborhood includes helping to bring an ESL (English-as-a-second-language) class to Moos.
“I hope you see in me the most viable candidate and the most well-positioned to actually get things done,” she said, noting that she had the support of state representative Luis Arroyo and state senator Iris Martinez.
Shaw, a civil-rights attorney and activist, said she “went into law to represent people who don’t have a voice.” Her work includes founding a pro-bono legal clinic serving immigrant communities in Pilsen and Chinatown.
She said she was running to restore government support for vulnerable populations. “Somehow, our state and national government has forgotten that the government is for the people,” she said.
Shaw also called herself “the most independent candidate running,” because she had taken no money from aldermen.
Here’s where the candidates stand on some of the district’s biggest issues:
All candidates favored licensing gun dealers, banning the sale of bump stocks and body armor and raising the minimum age for buying an assault weapons to 21. Shaw said she wanted to go further by instituting a “full ban on assault rifles” and working to enforce existing laws. “We’re not solving the majority of gun crimes in this city,” she said.
Pattison shared a “different angle”: giving kids better options than turning to crime. “We need to bring vocational training back into schools … so people can get a real living wage,” she said. Expanding on that, Ramirez said she wanted to bring back mentorship and youth-guidance programs that closed during the recent budget impasse.
All candidates advocated replacing Illinois’ 4.95 percent flat tax with a graduated, or progressive income tax. (This would tax different income levels at different rates.) “Every single state that touches Illinois … has a graduated income tax,” Shaw said. She added that the only way left to improve the state’s finances was to increase revenue. “We’ve cut to the bone,” she said.
Such a tax would require amending the state constitution, however. Two of the candidates shared their plan for such a heavy lift. Pattison said she wanted to bring together a network of activists for days of action at Springfield, “to put some political muscle behind it.”
Ramirez said she’s already accomplished advocacy like that. “I’ve been building coalitions for a very long time,” she said. “I’ve taken people to Springfield … to tell [Gov. Bruce] Rauner we need a budget that’s fair. … That is what I’m committed to continue doing.”
The four candidates all lamented the poor funding for schools in Chicago, particularly after the 2015-17 budget impasse. Millan said she had demonstrated a commitment to education. “Not only have I spent the past two and a half years working in higher education,” she said, “but I’ve spent my entire career building relationships … with educational institutions.”
Shaw proposed shoring up school funding via marijuana legalization, cutting corporate tax loopholes and moving to a progressive tax. Ramirez added that TIF funds should go to their intended purpose of community development, including school funding—as opposed to Navy Pier. TIF, or tax increment financing, is a fundraising tool designed to “promote public and private investment.”
“We also have [a] need to partner with neighborhood organizations, organizations like Logan Square Neighborhood Association” to do things like keep schools open past 3 p.m., Ramirez added.
Find your voting site at Chicago Elections. The primary vote is Tuesday, March 20, and early voting is ongoing.