Joseph Struck is running in the 13th Illinois House district primary against four other Democratic candidates to succeed the long-time out gay state Rep. Greg Harris, who is retiring at the end of this current term.
The new district boundaries encompass all of the Uptown, Arcadia Terrace, Bowmanville, Budlong Woods, Lincoln Square, Ravenswood neighborhoods and parts of the Andersonville, Buena Park and Lake View neighborhoods.
Windy City Times: Give the voters a little snapshot of yourself. How will your background outside of politics play into your legislative agenda?
Joseph Struck: I have advocated for affordable housing in the district through my involvement with Heart of Lincoln Square as their treasurer. We were big advocates early on for the affordable housing that should be starting construction on Western and Leland very soon but keeps being held up for various reasons.
I have also volunteered for political campaigns and the My Block, My Hood, My City organization which has made me more engaged with the issues they try to address. I have made reducing prison recidivism a big part of my campaign. I want to increase education opportunities for those who are currently incarcerated.
Currently, I work in insurance for my day job while also running for this office. My passions are everything I have done outside of work like advocating for LGBTQ equality, minimum wage increases, teachers and an elected Chicago Public Schools board.
I am a policy geek when it comes to public housing and making it affordable. Looking at what laws need to change to bring down the barriers that prevent this from happening. I want to get rid of single-family zoning laws to help make rents more affordable.
WCT: Why did you decide to run for office? What makes you the best candidate for this race?
JS: It was always a natural passion for me, even going back to high school. When no one else cared, I was engaged with what was happening politically in terms of government, policies and elections. This has carried through to my adult life in my volunteer work on political campaigns and learning about state and local politics. Then I decided to run for office myself.
I think I have the most balanced perspective and knowledge for this position. I have a master's in public administration because I wanted to learn how government works and also be able to connect with the electorate. My public and private sector experience will be an asset.
WCT: [Regarding] LGBTQ, HIV/AIDS and reproductive justice legislation, [what] do you plan to work on that has not already been addressed via current state laws?
JS: One thing I saw is there were only two HIV-related grants issued this year and they were for preventing new transmissions among African Americans. We should be looking at other preventative measures. I do not know if it is too audacious to want to fund a cure for HIV but I do think we should be doing more. I know there was a bill to appropriate $15 million to HIV research last year and it just sat there.
If Illinois has to go as far as putting abortion and other reproductive access in our Constitution I would support that if the recent law that was passed is not enough protect people who can get pregnant. It is really disappointing that this right is under assault right now and we are hearing about some barbaric bills happening in other states.
I have been hearing that there is a lot of trepidation among LGBTQ folks and especially the trans community around medical offices and hospitals due to bad experiences they have faced. There was a bill floating around that never got passed to require cultural competency for medical personnel on LGBTQ issues via continuing education.
WCT: In what ways will you ensure that the Getting to Zero Illinois 2030 initiative comes to fruition should you be elected?
JS: We need to be serious about it and provide the funding. That $15-million bill has to get passed.
WCT: Do you support HB2542 (Illinois Name Change Modernization Act)? Why or why not?
JS: Yes100 percent. Trans people face so many barriers and their suicide rate is among the highest of any group. We need to do everything we can to make their transition easier so they become their authentic self in every area of their lives.
WCT: Looking at the state's COVID response over the past two plus years, is there anything that should have been done differently by both the governor and state legislature? Where do you see the state legislature's role going forward regarding this ongoing pandemic?
JS: In the beginning, it was a difficult time and there was so much confusion. Even the Governor and Mayor were not on the same page with both people issuing different directives overriding each other. That caused more problems. Generally city, state and federal leaders needed to have better communication between each other including which entity should be funding different things to make things work. I do not think that happens enough.
It is tough. I am hoping that things get better over time. One thing the state is not communicating well including people getting their booster shots since less than half of the eligible people have done so. They should be getting the word out on multiple fronts to make this happen. Also, making sure people are aware of the very effective medication you can take if you get COVID.
WCT: Which endorsements do you want to specifically highlight?
JS: What I am most proud of is my connections with the voters I have met knocking doors. That means more than any endorsements I might receive.
WCT: What is your overall message to IL-13 voters?
JS: People are really worried right now and talk to me about how they feel like the country is under attack from those who are against reproductive rights and LGBTQ individuals. I tell people to just hold on because things will get better and I will do everything I can to make that happen.
See struckforstaterep.com .
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.