U.S. Rep. Danny K. Davis has represented Illinois' 7th Congressional District since 1996 and is campaigning to retain his seat in the June 28 primary. He recently spoke with Windy City Times about his previous accomplishments in office and the issues he will address if he is re-elected.
Windy City Times: What are some of the things you're most proud of accomplishing since you first took office in 1996?
U.S. Rep. Danny K. Davis: Well, let me tell you, the thing I'm most pleased with is the level of awareness of political education and the political involvement of the people I represent. I think it's far more pronounced now than it was when I started.
If people want to run for office, they run. You can't say that someone is going to be automatically elected anymore. It's more open now, more like democratic processes were designed to become. I like to think of myself as being an integral part of helping to bring this about.
We have an expanded Medicare and Medicaid program, which means anyone can have access to quality, affordable, basic healthcare services.
I've also traveled throughout the country and helped progressive candidates get elected. I also sit on the Ways and Means Committee in the House of Representatives, which some people say is the most important committee. After people come up with all the wonderful things they'd like to happen, it's our responsibility to figure out how to pay for them.
For the past two years, I've been so pleased with what the House of Representatives has passedsome of the best legislative enactments this country has seen since the mid-1960s. The increase in tax credits for low- and moderate-income people in the last two years has done more to reduce poverty in these groups than anything else I can think of.
I'm also very proud of the progress we've made with civil rights. We've been stymied in some ways, but we've also advanced the cause of human rights for every minority group in this country.
WCT: It's interesting that you mentioned being proud of more people getting involved in the democratic process. How would you respond to people who say you've become out of touch now that you've been an incumbent for so long?
DD: Well, I really feel sorry for those people. The older you get, the wiser you become. To use ageism as an opportunity to run for office ... is absolutely pathetic. Most of the leaders in this country are about the same age I am. Legislative enactment is not based on someone's age or how fast you can run.
I'm one of the most actively engaged elected officials in the state of Illinoisor any other state, for that matter.
To attempt to reason that people should not use the gifts they have and the knowledge and skills they've developed, you must not know how legislative bodies work. I'm now in a position to really exert the greatest level of influence that I've had when I raise issues and deal with things that a lot of other people wouldn't deal with.
For many of the issues that labor groups and environmental groups promote, I have a 100% voting record. Some left-leaning groups say I'm about 10% more progressive than the people who live in my district.
I ask myself, "Am I healthy? Is my mind clear?" People have the right to think what they want to think, but they also have the right to be wrong and insignificant.
WCT: Looking toward the future, what are some of your priorities if you're re-elected?
DD: I always say that I never want to be guilty of being in the basement and acting like I'm in a penthouse. There are areas we've made progress, like in healthcare, but I want to be at the point where we have Medicare for all. I want every person in this country to have the opportunity to experience the highest form of healthcare we can provide as a nation.
We're also not where we need to be in terms of reducing poverty. We need to keep trying to close reduce the disparities and make real the promise of the men who said, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal."
We have to work against the efforts to make it more challenging for people to vote. We also have to make sure we don't burn up the environment and try to prevent that.
WCT: Can you talk about your relationship with the LGBTQ+ community and any issues you want to address on their behalf?
DD: I have always been an avid supporter of the LGBTQ+ community and protecting human rights as long as I've been in public office, and will continue to do so as long as I live. My record on this is documented.
The Red Ribbon Lottery, which provides money to fund HIV/AIDS programs, originated in my office. I worked with Ben Montgomery, Michael O'Connor and Marc Loveless, to enact this because it's something I believe in.
It's not just a political issue. It's personal. I have always felt our world should embrace people for who they are and embrace whatever differences that make us.
WCT: What would you say are your biggest advantage and biggest disadvantage in the race?
DD: My biggest advantage is having experience compared to no experience, understanding versus no understanding. I have a record on all of the things I talk about.
I've been fortunate to get the endorsement of the mayor of Chicago and was endorsed by the governor of Illinois. I know there are people who don't like the governor and the mayor, but they spend every day of their lives doing this work. I'm endorsed by many others, including many of the clergy of the Seventh Congressional District and also guys in the alley. This is all because I've produced. I've brought billions of dollars and resources back to the district.
WCT: Would you say you have any disadvantages in the race?
DD:I guess if you could call it a disadvantage, there are some people who have the idea that age does matter. But it's hard for me to imagine what else there is to do other than to get older or to die. It could be that there are people who don't understand how change comes about [as much as I do].
For more information about Davis' campaign, visit www.dannykdavis.com/ .