Anthony Clark is running for Congress in Illinois’ 7th Congressional District. He was born and raised in Oak Park, a suburb of Chicago and part of his district. He’s an active member of the community as the founder of the Suburban Unity Alliance (SUA), a group working to improve the Chicago suburbs through community engagement, and is a special education teacher at his local high school.
Illinois as a whole has long been infamous for its corruption and general dysfunctionality, but Chicago and its inner-ring suburbs have been hurting acutely for decades. Schools are woefully underfunded, unemployment rates are high, and violent crime is abundant. “You witness that disparity, that disproportionality of equality and opportunity at an early age and, you know, it’s always in my mind.”
Anthony Clark believes that the 7th District needs community investment on a large scale to begin healing, and has taken the task into his own hands. “It’s to the point now where we can not wait on anyone else to do this work for us whether that’s on a political level…whatever level you identify on: politically, socially, economically, local national…we have to do the work ourselves. Nothing is going to change without grassroots efforts. That’s what I’ve been involved in the majority of my adult life.”
Clark’s actions seem to back up his words. On any given day, you might find him in a neighborhood cleanup, organizing a school supplies drive, on the grill at a community barbecue, or at a march for some various cause. He spent a week of the summer organizing a lawn care business to give 10 teenagers employment.
He stresses that his work in the community is not a grassroots strategy for winning the election. “The work I do, I’ve done before the election. This is not a photo op. This is not to make it look some type of way. This is who I am as a person…My organization existed before this election. My organization is going to exist after this election. My relationships with students and families existed before this election. They’re going to exist after this election because, again, you have to earn your keep.”
In May of 2017, Clark announced his candidacy, despite being staunchly opposed to the idea of running previously. “I didn’t see myself running for office because I feel like politicians are self-serving. They’re not serving the people. They’re serving [the] party and they’re serving themselves.” Learning about Brand New Congress, an organization fielding progressive candidates for elected office all over the country in 2018, made him realize that they hold the same values as him.
Although Clark has never held public office before, he reports having worked directly and indirectly with politicians on various initiatives related to his community service.
Anthony Clark has fully endorsed the Brand New Congress platform, and chief issues of his include combating the job crisis, securing proper funding for schools and vocational and technical programs, demilitarizing the police, and ending the war on drugs.
He believes that a lot of progress can be made in the 7th District and across the country by implementing universal single-payer healthcare, and providing everyone with access to a free college education. The educational system, however, is failing students long before questions of higher education. “I’ve been a teacher for 9 years now. My first teaching job, I made $16,000 as a full-time teacher. No students had books, I taught freshman through senior year all in the same classroom, three computers. They had me teaching Spanish, history, and English. I am not bilingual. That’s the lack of investment that happens in so many of our schools and that money stays at the top and doesn’t go to our students. We’ve spent too many years taking opportunities from people.”
Money in politics and supreme court cases such as Citizens United, he believes, are extremely detrimental to our electoral process. “I personally feel like you can not accept and court money from corporate interests and also be for the people. It’s one or the other. You have to choose. We have too many neoliberals…being a moderate, what is that? How is that moving us forward? But that’s what we’re seeing with a lot of our politicians…”
He takes issue with Danny K. Davis (D), incumbent congressman of the 7th District since 1997. “The incumbent has been in office for 20 years, so you’ve been saying the same thing for 20 years. Doing the same thing, voting for the same individuals and expecting different results is the definition of insanity. What’s different is the fact that I’m out here…creating jobs instead of waiting for someone else to. Instead of saying we need jobs, we’re going to implore the local government to create jobs for us. We need investment.”
Given past tendencies, it is probable that the Democratic Party will end up backing Danny Davis in 2018, making every day critical for Anthony Clark to build name recognition and awareness. “The only way to counteract money is to build relationships. I plan to knock on over 100,000 doors until this election. I want my knuckles to be bloody. I want my shoes to be broken down and ripped apart because I want to look people in their eyes, share my stories, share my visions and I want them to share their visions and stories with me. I want them to know that they’re my only special interests.”
His past and present work in the community suggests a hands-on approach to his potential role in office. Clark says that if elected, he plans on operating out of a mobile office, traveling around the district from day to day in order to serve the entire district. It’s a creative plan to cope with the consequences of gerrymandering.
“We have a lot of work to do, but we can’t have politicians that simply vote the right way…
The Illinois Democratic and Republican primary elections will be held on March 20, 2018.
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You must live in your election precinct at least 30 days prior to Election Day.