Community activist Jhatayn 'Jay' Travis formally announced her candidacy in Illinois' 26th district race, going up against incumbent Democrat Christian Mitchell.
In a press release that calls Mitchell a "machine incumbent," Travis' camp says she entered the race "because citizens deserve an advocate who will stand up for working families in Illinois."
Travis, who worked as the executive director of the Kenwood Oakland Community Organization and says she has been a community activist for the last 20 years, is supported by the Chicago Teachers Union and Citizen Action Illinois. Officials for the organizations joined Travis at her campaign headquarters Tuesday as she announced her candidacy in the March primary race.
Travis takes issue with Mitchell's vote in support of the controversial pension reform package as well as his "failure" to be "a leading voice against forced school closings and the proliferation of private charter operations."
“I’ve been organizing communities for a very long time and have been pleased to see incremental changes,” Travis said in the release. “But, when you have a politician like Christian Mitchell working against the interests of working families it’s hard to sustain that change. We shouldn't accept this sort of leadership. With their vote, our elected officials can say ‘no’ to school closings, ‘no’ to the stealing of their retirement benefits, and ‘no’ to a lack of job creation. Christian has failed to stand up for children, seniors, and the unemployed. We deserve better.”
Travis outlined the following priorities for her campaign and Illinois' 26th legislative district in her campaign announcement:
- Job Creation: Jay will level the playing field for the small businesses that create more good-paying, local jobs than large corporate interests, supporting their growth through reforms to tax and contracting systems. She will tighten the use of TIF funds to ensure that public dollars truly support investment in the communities hit hardest by unemployment and blight. She will fight to raise the minimum wage, ensuring that all Illinois workers are on a path to prosperity.
- Education Investment: Too many of our schools have been closed, underfunded, and neglected. The district cannot thrive without an investment in our children’s education. Jay is committed to funding all neighborhood schools equitably, and will work to make sure that Chicago has an elected representative school board where parents and families have a voice in the type of education their children receive.
- Public Safety: To address the root causes of community violence, Jay will continue to champion funding for youth development and employment, particularly in the summer, when violent crime spikes. Jay will also push for reforms to the criminal justice system to ensure that when ex-offenders return to our communities, they receive job trainings and support to change their life path.
- Pension Reform: Our public employees are ineligible for Social Security. Their pensions are their only retirement security. We owe it to our teachers, classroom aides, janitors, school lunchroom workers, firefighters, nurses, and police officers to honor their service, repeal SB1, and replace it with humane pension reform that generates the revenue needed to fully fund the pensions of our public servants.
In 2007, Travis won the Community Renewal Society’s “35 Under 35” Award for her leadership, alongside prominent other young leaders including activist Luis Gutierrez. Last year, Travis was presented with U.S. Rep. Danny Davis’ (D-IL,7) “Women of Courage” Award in 2013. The Chicago Reader’s 2011 People Issue also did a write up on Travis "for her work to reform discriminatory housing policies", according to the candidate. Travis graduated from Columbia College and the University of Chicago.
UPDATE 1: Incumbent Christian Mitchell, who worked as a community organizer with Southsiders Organized for Unity and Liberation (SOUL) before heading to Springfield, has been endorsed by the People's Lobby. Click through to read their full endorsement.